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A China Eastern A330. China’s government is easing restrictions on foreign carriers flying into the country. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

China Sends Commercial Jets to Evacuate Citizens from Ukraine

Since Friday, March 4, China began to evacuate its citizens from active war zones in Ukraine via commercial flights. As of the moment this report has been posted, a total of 7 flights has been executed from Romania and Poland to pick up Chinese nationals and their families to go to China. Chinese foreign missions are continuing their efforts to arrange more flights.

All Hands On Deck

Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern each operated two flights from Bucharest, Romania to various locations in China; Xiamen Air operated one flight from Warsaw, Poland to Hangzhou, China, and Hainan Airlines is expected to dispatch a flight to Bucharest to continue the evacuation efforts.

More flights are scheduled to neighboring countries of Ukraine to pick up evacuated Chinese Citizens. According to the Chinese Embassy in Hungary, two flights will take off from Budapest, Hungary to China. The carrier and destination of those flights are still unknown.

China is actively responding to global events that may harm its citizens. In previous cases, China has evacuated citizens from Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya, when those nations are in active conflicts. Behind all those courageous actions, are the powerful support of Chinese Airlines and adept crews.

Convoluted Routes

To avoid using any airspace that is above the war zone, the flights into and departing from Bucharest are taking the route over Central Asia and entering China from the western province of Xinjiang. This route avoids Ukrainian and Russian airspace, with the expense of prolonging flight time.

For Xiamen Air’s flight departing from Warsaw, the flight took a sharp turn north and then crossed the Eurasia continent via Russian airspace. The possible reason for taking this route is to dodge the complicated process of applying overflight permission to all Central Asian countries since Xiamen Air does not have any previous experience in operating flights over those nations. The flight was only flown via EU, Russian, and Mongolian airspace before reaching China. Time is precious for the evacuation.

Difficult Endeavors

Airlines are investing tremendous efforts to support the operation. Airlines only used days to gather eligible crews, dispatch aircraft, and apply for permissions to their flight plans. The Covid-19 situation was also complicating the situation. Among the passengers onboard the first two evacuation flights, over 30 people were tested positive for Covid-19. More cases will likely be found as the testing results of evacuees come out.

The Perfect Choice

The Airbus A330 was the go-to choice for those flights. The “Big-Three” state-owned airlines of China, Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern, all have larger aircrafts such as Boeing 777-300ER or even Airbus A380. However, considering the supportability of Bucharest Airport, as well as the availability of the crew resource, the A330 is the optimal choice to operate those evacuation flights. Xiamen Airlines, on the other hand, flew its’ Boeing 787-9 to Warsaw, as is the airline’s only aircraft that can reach Europe from China.

As the conflict goes on between Russia and Ukraine, more people are forced to flee their homes. More countries are arranging evacuation flights, or providing support to citizens to go home via commercial flights from neighboring countries of Ukraine. While people are thankful for knowing their fellow citizens are safe, they are also praying for the war to be end soon, so that everyone can go back to normal life.

Author

  • Lei is from Inner Mongolia, China, and now lives in Guangzhou. He grew up in an aviation family, where his passion began. During his time at Penn State University, he studied Industrial Engineering specializing in operations research, and he graduated with an honor’s thesis on airport gate assignment optimization. Now, he is a Purchasing Manager with Procter & Gamble. In his free time, he enjoys flying, reading, and wandering around the city.

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