Still Flying: 80 LATAM Airlines COVID-19 Humanitarian Cargo Flights From China to Chile

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While news headlines focus on the decline of international travel, it’s important to remember that many essential and critical missions are still being conducted by the general and business aviation communities. Many of these missions save lives or reunite people with their loved ones. During a crisis like COVID-19, our industry shines.

While the global COVID-19 pandemic has grounded most commercial passenger flights, airlines have begun to pivot. Aircraft that usually carried hundreds of passengers are instead now loaded with tons of humanitarian COVID-19 medical cargo.

This is now the mission for Chilean LATAM Airlines, which is using its fleet of Boeing 777s and Airbus 250 aircraft to bring medical supplies back to Santiago from Chile.

Needing a partner with proven experience, expertise, and success supporting the unique needs of a commercial airline delivering COVID-19 cargo, LATAM reached out to Universal for assistance.

The mission

Our Universal Aviation China team is supporting 80 flights to bring back COVID-19 supplies from China to Chile, including daily flights over one month from Chile to Shanghai and back—a fantastic undertaking by LATAM Airlines.

Currently, LATAM is flying daily missions to Shanghai to pick up humanitarian cargo to deliver back to Santiago. The primary challenge with these missions is coordination and pickup of the supplies while accommodating the pilot’s duty hours.

Essentially, our team has five hours of ground time to offload cargo brought from Santiago and load the aircraft with the humanitarian supplies. This includes not just loading the lower deck but also securely fastening cargo in the main cabin.

To achieve this in such a tight timespan, our experts on the ground are managing a team of porters who, as quickly and safely as possible, must load 800 boxes to the cabin—while wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Not long after the first flight, one of our Universal Aviation China team members received the following message from LATAM.

“I am most grateful for your help. You guided our crew and team in Shanghai and were available at all times. You were of great support for us, and an excellent example of what Universal can do for LATAM. Thanks again, and best regards.”

Based on the success of the Shanghai missions, we are proud to say that we will also now be supporting LATAM cargo missions every few days in Guangzhou, Beijing, and Xiamen.

We applaud LATAM Airlines for undertaking this amazing humanitarian effort during these unprecedented times, and we are privileged to provide support.

If you are considering a humanitarian cargo mission in China during the COVID-19 crisis, we are here to help. Universal is waiving all fees for trip feasibility assessments, research, and consultation services—even if we have to burn hours researching to get you the answer. Now is the time to come together as an industry, and as a community, to do whatever it takes to make these critical missions happen.


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