Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Virgin Group’s not-for-profit foundation, Virgin Unite, to fly a special charter flight from Shanghai to London, bringing in essential medical supplies and PPE equipment for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
The emergence of Covid-19 has led to Virgin Atlantic operating cargo-only flights, a first for the airline since its launch in 1984. Special exemptions from the imposed travel restrictions for pilots and cabin crew mean that cargo operations can continue, ensuring the airline can continue to support vital supply chains across the globe.
A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft operated the VS251 flight from Shanghai, which departed at 11:40 local time on 3rd April, landing at 16:50 on 3rd April into London Heathrow.
Manned by seven pilots and four cabin crew, the aircraft carried over 350,000 items of PPE supplies and medical equipment to London, including respirators, ventilator parts, face masks, scrubs, aprons and eye protection in both the hold and in the cabin of the aircraft. These items will help keep NHS workers on the frontline safe while supporting patients.
Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, thanked the NHS for their work in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the British Embassy in Beijing, the CAA and the UK Government for expediting clearances to make the flight possible.
“Despite a decrease in passengers travelling, demand to transport cargo remains strong, keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential supplies around the world,” said Kennedy. “We’re looking forward to continuing to partner with the Department for Health and the NHS, working with them on a number of flights over the next few weeks, to bring in the supplies that the teams here in the UK urgently need to care for patients. Thanks also to Guy’s and St Thomas’ [hospitals in London]for their support in helping to organise this.”