Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with not-for-profit foundation Virgin Unite and CEVA to fly a special charter flight from Shanghai to London, bringing in essential medical supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the National Health Service (NHS).
The Boeing 787-9 aircraft departed from Shanghai on April 3, landing at Heathrow later that day.
The aircraft carried more than 350,000 items of essential PPE supplies and medical equipment including respirators, ventilator parts, face masks, scrubs, aprons and eye protection in both the hold and in the cabin of the aircraft.
Special UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) permission had to be obtained by Virgin Atlantic to carry part of the shipment on the seats of its passenger cabin, with the rest of the cargo in the belly of the aircraft.
Once unloaded from the 12-hour flight, the cargo transferred onto CEVA Logistics trucks, headed for its specialist healthcare facility in Dartford. From there the supplies will be distributed to NHS hospitals, surgeries and other facilities including, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals Trust in London.
Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, commented: “We are incredibly grateful to the NHS for everything they are doing for the nation in extremely challenging circumstances, as they respond to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re pleased we can play a part in supporting them, by bringing crucial supplies into the UK. With special thanks to the British Embassy in Beijing, the CAA and the UK Government in expediting clearances to make this 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. 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’ for their support in helping to organise this.”
CEVA chief executive Mathieu Friedberg said: “These medical supplies and PPE equipment are urgently required to support the work that NHS teams are providing up and down the country during the COVID-19 crisis. Our CEVA teams at both ends of the supply chain, alongside the Virgin team providing the uplift and the Virgin Foundation, have worked together tirelessly to make this become a reality in an incredibly short timeframe”.
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 – whose health and wellbeing remains our top priority – mean that cargo operations can continue, ensuring the airline can continue to support vital supply chains across the globe.