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China Daily Global / 2020-03 / 26 / Page006

China Eastern Airlines helps lead relief efforts

By Yin Ruowei | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-03-26 00:00

Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, China Eastern Airlines has sent multiple charter flights not just to bring medical workers to Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, but to send consignments of medical supplies to other virus-ravaged places.

The airline has also sent flights to bring Chinese nationals stranded overseas back home.

China Eastern Airlines is the largest provider of charter flights during the outbreak. The company accounts for over 40 percent of all civilian carriers, it said in a statement.

At 00:01 am on Jan 25, the beginning of Lunar New Year, flight MU 5000 operated by CEA, took off from Shanghai for Wuhan. It was on a mission from the Civil Aviation Administration to send the first batch of 136 medical workers to help the infected and stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in the city.

It was the first civilian charter flight to Wuhan, a CEA executive said.

The demand for charter flights offered by CEA reached a peak on Feb 9.

Eighteen planes took off from six airports carrying 2,146 medical workers and nearly 110 metric tons of medical supplies from cities such as Shanghai; Qingdao, Shandong province; and Nanjing, Jiangsu province, to Wuhan.

Long-haul airplanes like the Boeing B777 and Airbus A330-which have been used in many antivirus battles and evacuation missions-were chosen for the missions.

Yet there was more to do than deploying flights. One staff member with CEA recalled: "Two charter flights landed at Shanghai one after another that day, which meant more attendants were needed. So we opened five check-in counters on Island B and four counters on Island C in Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to offer fast check-in and baggage check-in services for the two medical teams."

To ensure a safe flight operation, two experienced "five-star" captains flew one airliner, according to CEA.

As of Feb 25, a total of 9,610 medical workers from cities such as Taiyuan in Shanxi province, Xi'an in Shaanxi province and Suzhou in Jiangsu province flew to Hubei province on 96 CEA charter flights.

For those of Hubei origin stuck outside the country, CEA has arranged flights to pick them up.

As of Feb 25, the number of people returning home from countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia reached 539.

Since the early months in which the epidemic escalated and hospitals faced shortages of medical equipment, CEA has been working with Alibaba Group, China's e--commerce giant, to conduct an extensive global search for masks like the N95 to prevent the novel coronavirus. Eastern Air Logistics, a subsidiary of CEA, ran logistical services.

"A string of jobs were done in a timely manner, from the best flight selection, suitable model calculation, cabin reservation and material preparation to coordination among stations and customs clearance and cargo distribution," one company executive said.

"All the links were seamlessly connected to gain precious time for a fast delivery of medical equipment to Wuhan."

By Feb 25, nearly 3,000 tons of medical equipment, including surgical masks, medical goggles and protective suits, were transported from inside the country and from foreign nations including France, the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Singapore and Japan, traveling either on cargo planes or in the belly of passenger flights, to the front lines.


A China Eastern Airlines flight sends special medical teams from Shanghai to Wuhan, Hubei province.



China Eastern Airlines transports medical supplies to places in need.



China Eastern Airlines donates 2 million pairs of protective gloves to Shanghai.



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