DALLAS – How does an industry whose core business is flying people and goods across transnational borders help when crises ensue and airspaces are closed? That is the question the aviation industry faces in its efforts to help with the humanitarian crisis created by the Ukraine crisis.
Regardless of the surge in fuel prices and the longer routes necessary to avoid airspace closures, commercial airlines are promoting ways to help the people of Ukraine. The solutions may differ based on geography or airline capabilities, but the goal remains the same: to provide relief to those affected by the war in Ukraine.
American Airlines Supports UNICEF, Donate Miles
American Airlines (AA) announced that funds collected in-flight and online will support UNICEF’s Change for Good program and its humanitarian response in Ukraine. The funds will be raised this month at www.unicefusa.org/aa and on flights to and from international destinations and Hawaii.
In addition, the airline will direct all the miles donated to AA’s Miles for Social Goods program during the month of March to Airlink. The entity is a global humanitarian organization delivering critical aid to communities in crisis by providing airlift and logistical solutions to nonprofit partners responding to disasters around the world.
Brady Byrnes, Vice President of Flight Service for American Airlines, commented, “It is deeply troubling to see the humanitarian crisis unfolding as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Our purpose at American Airlines is to care for people on life’s journey, and in order to truly fulfill that purpose, we must step up when it matters most.”
Delta Air Lines Cooperates with the Red Cross
Delta Air Lines (DL) has contributed more than US$1m to the Ukraine relief effort. DL is cooperating with both the American Red Cross and the Global Red Cross Movement. They are delivering much-needed supplies, first aid training, evacuation assistance, and more to the region.
Delta has also given US$100,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to assist in providing humanitarian aid to people affected by the Russian invasion.
The partnership between the airline and the Red Cross dates back to 1941 and has allowed the airline, its customers, and employees to help people in need ever since.
Tad Hutcheson, DL’s Managing Director of Community Engagement, commented, “The most important way to help is through financial giving, as the American Red Cross and the Global Red Cross Movement have the resources and infrastructure to obtain and deliver goods, supplies, and trained volunteers to the places and people that need it most.”
United Airlines Matches Cash and Miles
United Airlines (UA) is promoting donations of both cash and miles among its passengers. The company stated it would then match up to US$100,000 and 5 million miles.
The airline is working with several relief partners: Airlink Flight, Americares, American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen. The goal is again to help provide food, medicine, and other goods and services directly to people in need.
United president Brett Hart commented, “The human tragedy we are witnessing in Ukraine is horrifying and has shocked us all so we’re doing our part to quickly help get aid to the people who desperately need relief.”
“Our partners have been on the ground for more than a week, and it’s clear they need more resources to fulfill their mission of flying workers and supplies to and from the frontlines of this crisis.”
Wizz Air’s Free Seats for Refugees
In what is probably the most surprising and impactful move, Wizz Air (W6) has offered 100,000 free seats for Ukrainian refugees on all continental European flights departing from Ukraine’s border countries (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania). The airline added larger planes and extra flights from border countries to Europe to help support the movement of Ukrainian refugees as necessary.
The first announcement was made on March 2, 2022, and the scheme was initially meant to run until the end of the month. However, due to a greater demand for seats, W6 announced an extension of the scheme until April 10, 2022.
Wizz Air observed that routes on certain dates have been in more demand than others, and unfortunately, they have already sold out. W6 states that it continues to monitor bookings to open up new free seats where possible.
AS of the time of this writing, the airline continues to add larger planes and extra flights from border countries to Europe, mainly from its bases in Budapest (BUD), Gdansk (GDN), Krakow (KRK), and Katowice (KTW).
József Váradi, Chief Executive Officer of Wizz Air, said, “Our hearts are with the Ukrainian people during this crisis. We are pleased that Wizz Air has been able to support Ukrainian refugees and we are committed to continuing this initiative until 10 April in the hope that as many people as possible are able to reach a safe place soon.”
The CEO added, “We have already seen great humanitarian efforts on the ground by our people across the network, and as a company, we wanted to play our part in these efforts. We are happy to provide a safe and welcoming journey for these refugees.”
A Recent Past Soon Forgotten
It is not the first time that global airlines have contributed to helping those affected by conflicts around the world.
Less than one year ago, the world watched as another humanitarian crisis unraveled in Afghanistan. At the time, commercial aviation helped with the evacuation of people fleeing the country. We heard of multiple stories of professionals from our beloved industry who volunteered to help those in need.
One example was the first Afghan evacuee flight operated by UA. The flight was conducted by a crew of more than a dozen of the carrier’s employees who volunteered to work on the flights. For the occasion, both airline and airport employees volunteered to help transport and greet the people leaving Afghanistan.
In the air and on the ground, they served as interpreters, troubleshooters, and carers. They stocked planes with diapers and teddy bears for hundreds of evacuated children and dug into their own pockets if supplies were needed. They delivered pizza to those awaiting processing who were stuck on planes at US airports.
Other examples include German carrier Lufthansa (LH) successfully carrying out its A340 flight to evacuate 130 people from Afghanistan and the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) being activated for the third time in history to fly Afghan evacuees to safe destinations. France and Belgium also took similar action involving their own national airlines.
Featured image: Lufthansa Star Alliance Airbus A340 Photo: Casey Groulx/Airways