The British charter airline TUI Airways has finished a mammoth repatriation effort, flying home 45,000 British holidaymakers before the holiday company temporarily shutters while it sees out the global COVID-19 pandemic. The last rescue flight landed at Birmingham airport from Cancun, Mexico on Sunday afternoon with 265 package passengers onboard.
As well as repatriating its own customers, TUI Airways has also been involved in rescue flights to get home holidaymakers whose original airlines had either stopped flying or were otherwise unable to operate planned services because of the Coronavirus outbreak. In the last few weeks, TUI Airways has been chartered to get passengers home from Goa, Jamaica, Turkey, Spain and Marrakech.
Nearly 1,000 cabin crew and 360 pilots were involved in the rescue flights but the majority will now join colleagues who have already been furloughed. Cabin crew have been told that their services won’t be needed for at least the next few months but this could possibly be extended to the whole Summer season.
Over the last 10 days, TUI Airways have operated 192 flights to bring back stranded passengers, as well as 320 travel reps who are no longer needed in overseas holiday resorts. The majority of the airline’s 58-strong fleet will now be grounded, although some will still be needed to help out in an “extraordinary” repatriation effort launched by the British government yesterday.
“I don’t think anyone could have imagined just a few months ago that we would be where we are today. We have dealt with the largest repatriation operation our business has ever seen, bringing 45,000 of our own customers, and hundreds of other holidaymakers, back from overseas,” explained Andrew Flintham, managing director of the international travel firm’s British business.
“… and now our operation, and the entire, travel industry is temporarily ‘on pause’,” he continued.
At this time of year, TUI Airways would normally operate 300 return flights per week, ramping up to 400 flights a week in time for the Easter holidays. Instead, newly hired seasonal cabin crew have been told they will no longer be offered a job, while a company-wide recruitment freeze is likely to last for the foreseeable future.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.