• Tom Jordan

Repatriation flights provide joy for stranded citizens and aviation enthusiasts alike

Condor 767-300ER lands in Las Vegas. Photo by Karam Sodhi | AeroNewsX

Over the past few days, various Australian cities have been the recipients of several repatriation flights by European airlines such as Condor, LOT Polish Airlines and Austrian Airlines. This has been in order to provide a quick and effective way of returning European citizens back to their home countries due to the COVID-19 crisis, which left them stranded in Australia with a very limited number of expensive options of getting home.

The first of these flights occurred on March 27th 2020 when a LOT Polish Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner, registered SP-LSA, touched down in Sydney, chartered by the Government of Poland to take stranded Polish citizens home. The flight LO8557 arrived in Sydney Airport in the early hours of March 27th at 2:10am local time before departing, loaded with over 200 Polish citizens on March 28th just before midnight as LO8548 routing via Singapore to Warsaw, Poland.

The second and largest repatriation operation occurred on March 29th at Perth Airport in Western Australia when four Condor Boeing 767-300ERs touched down to evacuate over 800 stranded passengers from the Artania cruise ship after an agreement was finally reached with the Australian government to allow the vessel to dock in Perth. The four Condor jets were each routed via Phuket, Thailand on their way back to Germany carrying a mix of German, Swiss and French citizens.

Australian plane spotters and aviation enthusiasts alike were further delighted on March 29th when Austrian Airlines Boeing 777-200ER OE-LPD, complete in “The Sound of Austria” livery, arrived in Sydney as OS1 to pick up stranded Austrian citizens. The jet remained in Sydney for just over a day, allowing for plenty of photo opportunities of the jet, which is an extremely rare catch in the Southern Hemisphere. The Boeing 777 finally departed on March 31st loaded with Austrian nationals as OS1028, routing via Penang, Malaysia to the Austrian capital Vienna.

However, these flights have not proved enough to evacuate all stranded citizens from Australia, with Condor announcing further repatriation flights, this time to the cities of Brisbane and Sydney. It is fair to say the flights have acted as a lifeline for stranded foreign citizens, and have also provided a haven for aviation enthusiasts seeking out rare airlines in the suddenly silent skies of Australia.

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