LONDON: Air Partner plc, the global aviation services group, has once again worked alongside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to deliver a unique, fully-integrated and holistic solution for the evacuation and repatriation of UK and Irish nationals onboard the cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Yokohama in Japan.
The project was complex, challenging and time sensitive, made more demanding by the requirement for the FCO to carry out the security screening of all passengers and their baggage in Tokyo before they could board the flight back to the UK.
Throughout the planning phase and operational delivery, employees from across the Air Partner Group worked closely with the FCO, the operating airline, the Department for Transport (DFT) and the Spanish Civil Aviation Authority to obtain the numerous authorisations and approvals needed to complete the project on time.
Air Partner’s Group Charter team chartered a Boeing 747-400 to carry out the flight from Tokyo Haneda to Boscombe Down in the UK, ensuring that the aircraft was optimally configured. The upper deck was designated for crew rest only to clearly segregate the evacuees and the flight crew, and there was also a separate section in the nose of the aircraft that could be used as an isolation zone for passengers.
Redline Assured Security (“Redline”), Air Partner’s recently acquired Safety & Security division and one of the world’s leading aviation security companies, endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and the UK Department for Transport (DFT), worked hand in hand with the FCO on all matters pertaining to security clearances and the security screening of passengers and their baggage in Tokyo.
Redline mobilised its security experts from its rapid deployment team (RDT) within two hours of the project being given the go-ahead and arranged for them to be deployed to Tokyo on the positioning flight from Madrid on 20 February, along with the necessary scanning equipment. The Group’s Freight team worked alongside Redline to charter a Metroliner freighter to transport the equipment directly from Redline’s National Security Training Centre at Doncaster Sheffield Airport to Madrid ahead of this. The operatives were appropriately attired in protective clothing at all times.
The evacuation flight departed Tokyo Haneda at 07:57 on Friday 21 February (local time) and arrived into Boscombe Down in Wiltshire at 11:41 on Saturday 22 February (local time), carrying 32 passengers safely home.
Mark Briffa, CEO at Air Partner, commented: “Unfortunately, the spread of coronavirus has continued at pace and our thoughts remain with everyone affected. We were pleased that we could play a role in the FCO’s mission to swiftly and safely repatriate British and Irish nationals quarantined on the cruise ship in Japan. Our Group Charter and Safety & Security divisions were in a unique position to deliver a fully-integrated solution to make this happen.
This was a multifaceted and time sensitive project and I am immensely proud of the work our colleagues undertook to ensure 32 UK and Irish nationals onboard the ship could return to the UK. By offering this holistic solution, which combines Charter and Safety & Security, with appropriate international accreditations and approvals in place, we are ideally placed to meet our customers’ diverse aviation requirements in fast-moving crisis situations. We continue to work with customers to provide our range of aviation services in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and remain on standby to assist in any way we can.”
The Yokohama cruise ship evacuation follows a project earlier this month in which Air Partner flew medical supplies to Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, and evacuated over 300 British and EU nationals from the city.