Airlines reopen passenger routes to deliver PPE haul to UK from China

17 April 2020, 16:43

The seats were covered with protective material, before the cargo was loaded
The seats were covered with protective material, before the cargo was loaded. Picture: Twitter/UK in China
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Several airlines have reopened passenger routes from China to help transport more than 12 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the UK.

The British Embassy in China said on Friday that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic had both chartered flights on passenger planes to carry PPE back.

Mail company DHL also planned a cargo route.

According to the embassy, British Airways flew its passenger route between Beijing and London for delivery, while Virgin Atlantic picked up 200,000 visors and 30,000 gowns from Shanghai.

For all the latest updates on coronavirus, follow our live blog

Videos and images of the cargo being loaded onto the aircrafts showed the passenger seats being covered with protective materials before boxes were loaded on.

When asked why the companies used planes built to carry passengers rather than cargo, the embassy said it was "a lot easier" and "cost efficient" to get civilian aircraft into China on existing routes.

It added that more than 12 million items of PPE had been shipped to the UK due to "packing the planes tightly" in the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, DHL also delivered 100,000 full face shields to the UK, which was paid for by the Masks for Heroes Campaign, and came from Shanghai and Chongqing.

READ MORE: Over 750,000 PPE items flown from China to UK on charter flight

The campaign has so far raised £1.8 million, including a £275,000 donation from actor James McAvoy.

It comes just days after more than three quarters of a million items of PPE were flown in from China on a special charter flight.

The 6,000-mile cargo-only Virgin Atlantic flight from Shanghai to Heathrow was chartered by the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care, and was carrying 16 tonnes of cargo.