“The natural human instinct is to want to help in any way possible.” That’s the first thing VistaJet’s Chief Commercial Officer Ian Moore said when asked what his company was doing to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously in some situations you’re helpless, but in some, you can be the difference,” continued Moore.
Right now, we’re finding that airlines can indeed be the difference. Over the last few weeks, leaders in the aviation industry have stepped up to assist with repatriation efforts, and to deliver necessary medical supplies to the areas that need them most.
This represents a shift in the aviation industry that no one saw coming. Moore has been monitoring the coronavirus spread since long before it was declared a pandemic, because VistaJet facilitates a significant amount of business travel abroad. However, in just the last few weeks, they have seen their product fully pivot, almost overnight.
“We went from being very much a business tool and a family holiday company to a very serious repatriation company,” said Moore. On March 20, when the U.S. put out a Global Health Advisory encouraging citizens to return home, VistaJet shifted to focus entirely on “connecting loved ones and getting them to their safe haven,” Moore said.
“The expectations from the customer changed from, ‘can I have caviar and champagne on board?’ to ‘are you still able to fly me into that location,’ or, ‘can you get me home?’”
Whenever possible, VistaJet’s answer has been yes. As long as they can get the permits needed to fly a client home to safety, they will. And the question propelling the company forward right now is, of course, how can we help?
Fortunately, that’s a common sentiment among airlines at the moment, even as the airport closures, border restrictions, and grounded flights wreck havoc on their industry.
These are how airlines, from private jet company VistaJet to Delta Air Lines, are helping those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond repatriation efforts, VistaJet is transporting government officials on their empty flight legs. They started by reaching out to as many governments as possible, and set up a daily email announcing their empty legs, should officials need immediate transport. They have had a lot of success getting people out of smaller locations that commercial airlines wouldn’t normally fly to. VistaJet is also partnering with some of their clients as well as medical organizations to transport important medical supplies and health experts where possible.
Delta Air Lines
Delta is utilizing their cargo flights to transport medical supplies between China and the U.S. The “cargo-only flights between Shanghai and Detroit” will fly three times a week carrying 49 tons of cargo on Delta A350s. In Detroit, the supplies arriving from China will be redistributed to various states via passenger planes. Delta is also flying healthcare workers to states experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, such as Louisiana, Michigan, and Georgia, who are specifically in need of additional medical help. The aviation company will also be donating 200,000 pounds of food to hospitals, community food banks, and other organizations the world over, to help people in need and those on the front lines.
Hawaiian Airlines is offering free flights to medical workers to neighboring islands for all of April “to support travel associated with COVID-19 response efforts.” They are currently running 16 daily flights between O‘ahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai for essential medical personnel. They also have partnerships with numerous Hawaiian healthcare providers, like Kaiser Permanente Hawaii and Hawai‘i Pacific Health, to help deliver critical supplies throughout the islands.
JetBlue is currently working with their non-profit partners, like the Red Cross, Americares, and Doctors Without Borders, and NGOs to transport medical professionals and supplies to underserved areas. For Doctors Without Borders, JetBlue is “helping members return home when needed to assist in their local communities” and transporting crucial supplies. For Americares, they are transporting personal protective equipment (PPE) and for the Red Cross, they’ve granted one million “TrueBlue points.” Those points are going toward “transporting Red Cross personnel, including disaster relief volunteers and blood collection employees, as well as shipping of lifesaving blood products.” JetBlue is also still offering flights to students who need to get home to their families, and are assisting students in need of a “permanent housing situation.”
A regional short-haul airline making semi-private air travel more accessible, JSX has recently worked with the government on a huge repatriation effort. In the course of 48 hours, JSX helped 106 U.S. citizens, all over the age of 65, get safely back to their homes across 22 U.S. cities. Beyond this effort, JSX has implemented a capacity cap of 20 people per flight, all of whom are well over six-feet apart. This makes them one of the only social distancing-compliant ways to travel, and they are currently transporting essential personnel, including healthcare workers, government officials, and military and medical personnel.
Private aviation company XO is using every one of their in-bound New York City and tri-state area flights to deliver medical supplies from across the country. XO saw the pressing need for protective gear in NYC and immediately put their resources toward transporting the essential PPE. While XO is currently offering this service only for the area immediately surrounding New York City, now the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., they plan to extend to other cities in need throughout the country.