Virgin Atlantic has delivered 3.5 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) in to the UK aboard special cargo-only flights which have been chartered by the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS.
Today (Tuesday 21st April) the airline is operating another 26-hour round trip between London Heathrow and Shanghai, with flight VS251 arriving from China this afternoon. Stowed on board are tonnes of crucial medical supplies and PPE, in the cargo hold of the Boeing 787-9 aircraft, and also on the seats in the cabin, following special dispensation from the CAA.
Manned by seven pilots and four cabin crew, who rotate duties and rest time, each flight carries an average of 16 tonnes of essential items to keep NHS heroes working on the frontline safe and support patients who are in great need.
Since the first charter on Friday 3rd April, which was supported by Virgin Unite and Virgin Group, over 80 tonnes of medical supplies and PPE have been transported, including 50 ventilators, 1.8 million face masks, 600,000 face shields and visors, 1 million disposable gloves, 38,000 items for eye protection, and 75,000 protective coveralls and isolation gowns.
Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said: “We’re hugely grateful to the NHS health and care workers who are working so hard to help the nation and respond to the Covid-19 crisis.
“Working closely with the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care, Virgin Atlantic is transporting over 100 tonnes of crucial medical supplies and PPE in to the UK on special cargo charter flights from Shanghai this month, through Heathrow airport. Special dispensation from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) means that we can store cargo in the cabin as well as the cargo hold, ensuring even more essential medical supplies can reach the UK this week and be distributed by the NHS to frontline staff.”
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.
Virgin Atlantic’s first-ever cargo-only flight, VS698 from London Heathrow for New York JFK, took place only on 22nd March 2020.
The flights are operated in partnership with the UK Government and Virgin Atlantic. The British Embassy is working with the Department of Health and Social Care to procure medical equipment from China and deliver it to NHS hospitals all over the UK.