37 hours on flight from Equatorial Guinea bringing Vietnamese citizens home hinh anh 1

Vietnam Airlines crew 



After a long journey to bring more than 200 Vietnamese citizens home safely, the crew were all relieved and happy to have fulfilled an important mission.

Flight attendant Pham Xuan Truong, who was also on flights repatriating Vietnamese citizens from Germany, the Netherlands, and France, volunteered for this special flight. This one, he said, is probably the most memorable and emotional he has flown in his career.

At 1.30pm on July 28 (Equatorial Guinea time), the Airbus A350 aircraft, carrying crew members, medical staff, and health equipment, landed at Bata International Airport in Equatorial Guinea - a small facility with poor infrastructure.

It was very hot outside, Truong said, but more than 200 Vietnamese workers had waited patiently for the plane to arrive. When it landed, Truong saw Vietnamese citizens cheerfully waving and full of hope.

They had been at the terminal for some time. There were no seats, no fans, and no drinking water. They just stood around or sat on the ground, Truong said.

After the plane doors opened, more than 200 protective suits were given to passengers. When coming on board, they were warmly welcomed by crew members, showing solidarity and order in strictly implementing preventive measures.

For 22-year-old flight attendant Nguyen Anh Tuan, this was not the first time he had volunteered to work on flights bringing Vietnamese citizens home during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he earlier engaged in repatriation efforts from Germany and France. He said he will volunteer for other flights.

This special flight, he said, had five sets of protective gear for the crew. While hot to wear, all flight attendants did so.

It took a total of 37 hours to fly from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport to Bata, and return.

When the plane landed in Vietnam, everyone on board was excited to be home safe and sound.

Sharing his feelings after the long flight, Tuan said he felt proud because all 219 Vietnamese citizens came back home safely.

When asked about the possibility of him catching the virus, he said he accepts the risk. “I believe in our medical staff, who have steadfastly fought the disease and treated many patients,” he said.

The 14-day quarantine at the National Hospital for Tropical Disease in Dong Anh district in Hanoi will pass quickly and everything will be fine, he said with smile.

Vietnam Airlines and “special flight” bringing Vietnamese home

Vietnamese citizens say thanks to the Vietnamese Government and Vietnam Airlines for repatriating them from Equatorial Guinea (Photo: VNA)

A special flight carrying 219 Vietnamese citizens previously living in Equatorial Guinea landed safely at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport a couple of days ago.

It was the 41st flight conducted by the national flag carrier to bring Vietnamese people home from different parts of the world. It was the first time, however, that the airline had to do so while also dealing with a large number of infections, as many passengers are thought to be carrying COVID-19.

Dang Anh Tuan, head of the airline’s Communications and Branding Department, said right from the early days of the first outbreak, Vietnam Airlines has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Government and people everywhere and every time.

Despite facing a high risk of infection, its staff have been willing to put themselves on the frontlines of the national fight against the pandemic, Tuan said, adding that more than 130 employees, including pilots, flight attendants, technicians, and ground staff, voluntarily agreed to be part of the flight and this is truly touching.

“Flights followed the strictest standards and had experienced flight crews and highly-qualified engineers, technicians, and ground staff,” he said. “Standby spare parts were also taken, so any technology-related problems could be addressed.”

Tuan said Vietnam Airlines had prepared for a month for the special flight, with dozens of meetings held to discuss every detail, under the direction of the Prime Minister, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, and the Ministry of Transport.

With its experience in repatriating Vietnamese citizens from unstable places such as Libya in 2011 and 2014 or Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Vietnam Airlines worked with relevant ministries and sectors such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health on preparations and on having suspected cases of infection on board.

All necessary preparations relating to technical issues and protective gear were made, to deal with any and all situations that may occur on the flight.

Preparation of fuel for the aircraft at Equatorial Guinea’s Bata International Airport was also problematic, as the airport had no fuel at all.

But the carrier worked with the Equatorial Guinean side to resolve the problem, with the latter making arrangements for fuel to be transported to the Bata International Airport.

To deal with every arising circumstance, Vietnam Airlines decided to choose the most experienced crew members, Tuan explained, adding that the captain previously flew to Libya to rescue Vietnamese workers.

After landing in Hanoi, Captain Pham Dinh Hung told the Vietnam News Agency: “The flight was safe. No passengers had any problems during the journey from Bata to Noi Bai.”

Phung Hoang Quan, a flight attendant onboard the special flight, said it was his third trip repatriating Vietnamese. Unlike previous flights, however, where most of the passengers were students, this flight had passengers who had been identified as being possibly infected with COVID-19.

“I’m not married as yet, so before these flights this I always speak with my parents,” he said. “Fortunately, they understand the nature of my career and support me.”

He added that if Vietnam Airlines conducts more such special flights, he will again put his hand up./.VNA