Australia’s largest airline has confirmed it is repatriating Australians stranded in China, amid the continuing Novel Coronavirus outbreak.
Qantas Boeing 747-400ER, VH-OEE, departed Australia on 2 February 2020, bound for Hong Kong. Here it was prepared for the domestic leg to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak, which the World Health Organisation declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in late January.
A 14-person volunteer Qantas cabin crew, as well as two pilots are operating the aircraft. Qantas says the call for volunteers was: “oversubscribed, with scores of people putting their hand up to assist.”
Operating as QF6032, the aircraft departed Wuhan at 7:45 am local time, February 3 2020, and is due to arrive in Exmouth, Western Australia, at 4 pm WST. It is understood that passengers will then transfer to Christmas Island for a period of quarantine.
A series of additional health and safety measures have been put into place, in an attempt to reduce the risk of transmission of Novel Coronavirus aboard the 747 while in flight.
Both passengers and crew are required to wear surgical masks for the duration of the journey, while hand sanitiser will be in plentiful supply on board.
Face-masks will be changed hourly, with cabin crew focusing primarily on safety procedures as required by law. As such, there is a limited food and beverage service aboard, while the upper deck of the 747 – usually home to 18 business class passengers – is reserved for crew use only.
Additionally, health officials are travelling on the aircraft to monitor passengers and assist as needed.
Qantas says that all of its aircraft: “contain medical-grade HEPA filters as part of the air conditioning system, which significantly reduces the risk of virus spread,” while the aircraft in question will be thoroughly cleaned before returning to regular service.
“All onboard waste will be disposed of in accordance with health and quarantine regulations,” Qantas told Australian Aviation in a prepared media statement on Monday, adding: ”Qantas has worked closely with the Australian Government, including DFAT, on the complicated logistics for the flight.
“The Australian Government is covering the majority of the cost of the charter, which will be operated at a loss by Qantas.”