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Around 40 Air New Zealand Flight Attendants Have So Far Volunteered to Evacuate Kiwis from Wuhan

Around 40 Air New Zealand Flight Attendants Have So Far Volunteered to Evacuate Kiwis from Wuhan

New Zealand is preparing to evacuate up to 300 Kiwi’s stranded in Wuhan, the epicentre of a novel Coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 170 people, and it’s been revealed that at least 40 flight attendants working for Air New Zealand have actually volunteered to work the repatriation flight out of China.

Yesterday, the New Zealand government announced it would charter a Boeing 777-200 from the national flag-carrier in order to get stranded Kiwi nationals out of danger.  Several other countries have already operated special repatriation flights out of Wuhan including the United States, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom.

In fact, South Korea has so many nationals stuck in Hubei province that it has organised four repatriation flights.  Those brought back to Seoul will be quarantined for 14-days in an attempt to prevent the mystery illness spreading into the country.

“New Zealand will be offering any additional seats to Pacific Island and Australian citizens as a matter of priority,” the country’s foreign minister Winston Peters announced yesterday.

“This is a complex operation as we work through all the necessary requirements but we are working to have the aircraft depart as soon as possible,” he continued.

The repatriation flight will require a volunteer crew of 10 flight attendants, along with two pilots and potentially an entire team of ground staff to enable a smooth turnaround in Wuhan.  But while there’s no shortage of volunteers, questions are being asked about what safety measures are being put in place.

“Crew need to know that they’re safe, what their risk of infection is as well as the risk of passing something on when they get back. That’s the biggest concern they have, that they could pick it up and not know it and pass it on to colleagues or friends and family,” explained the head of aviation at Kiwi union E tū.

“We may sign a special agreement for the flight to clarify what to expect and what the conditions are,” Savage continued, saying that questions about protective clothing and containment procedures still need to be answered.

On Friday, Air New Zealand confirmed it would continue flying to mainland China despite a growing list of international airlines temporarily suspending all operations to the country.  A spokesperson for the airline said its flights to Shanghai remained at capacity for the coming weeks but it would reduce operations to four flights per week as travel restrictions become more onerous.

Air France and KLM both said they would follow the lead of British Airways and Lufthansa in suspending flights to mainland China.  Air France will also be making use of volunteer crew to operate its last flights to the country.  Virgin Atlantic is also expected to suspend its operations to Shanghai, despite initial reluctance to copy British Airways, after the US State Department advised against all travel to China – putting it on the same footing as Iraq and Afghanistan.

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