Q&A: Air Evacuations during COVID-19

Thursday, April 2, 2020

With the Covid-19 outbreak continuing to develop around the world, and affecting countries globally, there’s no doubt there’s both challenging and fast changing circumstances for companies and individuals to contend with. As countries across the world close their borders and citizens are instructed by governments to return to their home countries, air evacuations have been essential.

Over the last three weeks, we have seen this first-hand working closely with our clients to quickly and safely repatriate employees before borders and airports close

Since the outbreak began to sweep the world, our Emergency Planning Division have been extremely busy helping our clients to navigate through these uncertain times. With a large amount of our clients with employees in hard to reach destinations continuing to work on large projects such as oil & gas, or consultancy – it is business critical that they have an emergency evacuation plan in place for their employees to ensure their safety at any given time.

Emergency Planning Division Manager, Joe Halanen explains how we have been working with clients and the intricacies and importance of having a plan in place for your employees.

How have you been assisting clients so far during the Covid-19 outbreak?

We have had a vast number of enquiries from affected clients and we continue to monitor the situation and provide assistance wherever we can. Our team have already organised evacuation flights for our clients, from many countries including Algeria, Angola, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

Our clients operate in high risk areas and having sufficient cover in times of crisis is of paramount importance. We have annual or multi-year contracts in place with our clients and when they first enter into the contract with us, we draw up a bespoke country evacuation plan, aimed at mitigating risk and ensuring that our clients are prepared for any type of emergency. The country plan is a comprehensive document with detailed planning including airfield capabilities, alternative airfields, destinations and potential safe havens, as well as items such as routes to the airfield and passenger manifests. It is extremely detailed, completely tailored to the client and has allowed our clients to prepared in situations such as Covid-19.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, we have been providing guidance and support to our clients, via our dedicated Emergency Helpline telephone number, where an Aviation Specialist is on-hand to assist 24/7. If a client is looking for an evacuation flight, after calling this telephone number and speaking with us, we provide an initial proposal within an hour from their first call to us. Then once we have the full solution and the client's agreement, we then work through all the logistics and operate the evacuation flight. The logistics can often be complex and includes securing the aircraft and organising the relevant paperwork which includes gaining the necessary permits.

How are you monitoring the situation?

Our team have been carefully monitoring and preparing for this specific situation for many weeks now, however the bespoke country evacuation plans are tailored to their specific circumstances and have already factored in how to evacuate employees should any crisis situation occur.

We are carefully monitoring upcoming and current airport closures and providing updates to our clients. Many airport closures worldwide have led clients to having to evacuate quickly or consider other land routes to airports which are still open.

What advice have you been giving clients?

Our team has had many requests for information about imminent airport closures and also questions about ways around these closures, which our experienced Account Managers are often able to find. For example, in the early stages of the airport closures due to COVID-19 we had informed clients about the situation such as for Kuwait where other departure options are limited.

We have also had many enquires relating to availability of aircraft just in case of the need to enquire, so have been advising clients in this regard. As it stands, it's a fast-moving situation and spare capacity tends to get booked up quickly, we are seeing fast turnarounds in aircraft bookings, so have advised our clients accordingly.

What do clients need to consider before an evacuation flight?

Clients need to consider their passenger manifest list - who will fly, including their nationalities and visa details, to help us plan the destination of the charter flight. They should also consider wider points relative to the situation, such as what to take and how to get to the airport. We help clients plan all of this in advance of an evacuation so that risks are mitigated as much as possible.

As the outbreak becomes more widely spread impacting more areas, what should clients consider for the immediate future?

As the outbreak continues to unfold, we'll be working closely with our clients to monitor airport closures and consider how long they may be shut for. At some point borders and airports will start to re-open so we stand by ready to assist in repatriating staff who have become stranded in order for clients' operations to continue in the future.

Our Emergency Planning division has provided 24-hour global air evacuation planning and implementation services for nearly 20 years. We are a dedicated and skilled team offering a personalised service, but with the backing of a global company. The benefits of having a contract with us include:

• Bespoke country evacuation plans tailored to your company's requirements
• Access to dedicated emergency helpline manned 24/7, providing quick response to situations
• Our assistance and involvement in your test evacuation exercises
• Access to credit so there are no delays to your evacuation
• Experience and reassurance - Air Partner PLC has over 58 years of experience in the global charter market
• Access to further security & medical services