Still flying: Delivering 5 Tons of COVID-19 Medical Supplies on 3 Airbus A320/321s

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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.

In late March 2020, Greece-based Aegean Airlines and Hellenic Petroleum teamed up to bring FIVE TONS of medical supplies from China to Greece and Cyprus onboard three Airbus A320/321s to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

They needed a partner with the expertise to manage the ground logistics in China, as well as to navigate the continually-changing COVID-19 restrictions, so Aegean reached out to Universal for support.

The three aircraft—Aegean Airlines commercial passenger jets, still outfitted with some passenger seating—needed to quickly get in and out of Tianjin, China, where the five tons of facemasks and personal protective equipment (PPE) were waiting. The clock was ticking. A sense of urgency was everything.

Our Universal Aviation office in China quickly mobilized to support the flight. A team was sent to Tianjin to prepare for and manage everything onsite.

Requirements for cargo flights are very different than regular private flights, and one misstep could lead to costly delays. The team worked with cargo forwarders, the Tianjin airport authority, and both the Cyprus and Greece embassies to review all the requirements, make sure nothing was missed, and get the necessary permissions to proceed.

With all the permissions in place, next came the cargo logistics. Loading cargo onto an A320/321 with seats is a time-consuming process. With seats, it takes belt loaders longer to upload cargo due to the limited space.

The team spent more than four hours on the ramp to oversee the loading of everything. Because of the lack of available porters, the team even had to work as porters, themselves, to help to complete the loading on time.

The greatest challenge was having to wear head-to-toe, hot and uncomfortable, personal protective equipment. It gave the team a little perspective on and a greater appreciation for the dedication and tribulations healthcare heroes are facing daily.

Ultimately, the three aircraft were loaded, and the equipment was flown successfully to Greece and Cyprus. And best of all, there’s more to come. Based on the success of the mission, Aegean has pledged to do eight more deliveries, and we’re proud that we will be supporting them.

In today’s world, the lines between commercial and business aviation are blurred. The only thing that matters is supporting people in need. Thank you to Aegean Airlines as well as our local suppliers, Cosco Tianjin and Tianjin Cargo Service company, for helping make this mission a success.

If you are considering a COVID-19 humanitarian cargo mission in China during this 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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