Malaysia’s two major airlines have recently deployed rescue flights to bring home Malaysians stranded overseas. Those affected are unable to travel because direct flights have either been cancelled or did not originally exist. In some cases, the flights also carried foreign citizens of that country otherwise unable to reach home.
Rescue flights: how they work
There are two types of Rescue flights. One is for getting people out of danger and the other is to transport much needed goods for relief work or basic needs. First the aircraft has to get to the location. This is obvious, but there have been misconceptions about what happens when they reach the destination.
- The aircraft will most likely be parked at a remote location (away from the terminal building)
- Crew may be required to stay on board, or taken to a holding room in the terminal
- The crew must wear appropriate protective gear.
- They will undergo health and temperature checks
- The aircraft will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- It will also be refuelled
- The crew will return to the aircraft
- Passengers will board
- The aircraft will return to the home port
- Pilots – the number of pilots depends on the distance and the number of hours they are flying.
- For a short trip (e.g. Kuala Lumpur – Phnom Penh) flight time each way is just under two hours.
- This is a flight that is normally a ‘turnaround’
- The same crew mans the aircraft for both legs.
- For a long trip (e.g. Kuala Lumpur – Rome) flight time is approximately 12-13 hours.
- As the crew’s time starts well before take-off, filing flight plans etc., there will be a change-over mid flight.
- To accommodate this, there will be at least three full sets of crews, so sleeping time can be included.
- Cabin Crew – number depends on the length of flight and the level of service provided.
- They will also wear protective gear.
- All crew will undergo mandatory 14 days quarantine on return to Malaysia.
- They are not allowed to self-isolate at home.
This is a simple explanation. Please don’t be misled by people on social media who spread false information. Please feel free to clarify or correct any information in the comments section, to help others understand.
Cambodia and Bangladesh have both imposed strict travel restrictions to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak locally. Bangladesh closed its borders to all commercial flights from Malaysia on 21st March. Cambodia has enhanced health screening and entry restrictions for passengers who have visited or transited through Italy, Germany, Spain, France, the United States or Iran in the last 14 days. These travellers are denied entry.
Flight MH763 from Phnom Penh arrived in KLIA on 25th March at 9.05pm, carrying 150 passengers. The Boeing 737-800 aircraft had seven crew onboard. Flight MH197 from Dhaka arrived in KLIA on 26th March at 5:55am, ferrying 225 Malaysians. This service used a larger Airbus 330-200 aircraft with 12 crew. Malaysians on board included students and Hospital Medan Malaysia staff in Cox’s Bazar.
MAS Kargo has also successfully collected a large supply of medical supplies from Shanghai. These will be distributed within Malaysia and nearby countries.
Eighty-one Malaysian returned at 9.58am on 26th March on a special AirAsia X flight from Rome, Italy. The outbound journey which left Kuala Lumpur at 4.30am on 25th March, carried around the same number of passengers needing to return to Italy. After a short turnaround in Rome, during which the aircraft was cleaned, disinfected and refuelled, the passengers boarded for the long flight home. The aircraft carried seventeen crew who worked in shifts during the journey across Egypt, Saudia Arabia and India. All passengers and crew are now in mandatory 14 days of quarantine.