Air China evacuates 9000 Chinese from Libya


BEIJING, China – Air China has completed its biggest ever overseas humanitarian mission by evacuating 9,000 Chinese nationals from Libya, which has been suffering from widespread unrest in recent weeks. The airline laid on 28 charter flights to transport back to China the students, workers and their families, representing around a quarter of all the Chinese who have been evacuated from Libya over the past few weeks.

On receiving the evacuation request, Air China moved quickly to prepare aircraft, crews and equipment, taking just 10 hours to ready the first flight that took off from Beijing Capital International Airport on Feb. 23. Averaging nearly three flights a day, the mission was completed within the next 10 days.

However, conditions for the flights were far from ideal. There are no regular scheduled flights by Chinese airlines between China and Libya, so Air China deployed its staff based in Europe to Libya to prepare for the evacuation. The first flight arrived in Libya amid strong winds and heavy rain. Without any ground support, the crew nevertheless landed the plane smoothly by sight at 8:07AM. The bad weather continued to hamper operations, and after being checked-in manually, passengers were given hand-written boarding passes and baggage tags issued in heavy rain on the airfield.

Despite the adverse conditions, Air China nevertheless went to great lengths to make their guests comfortable. The passengers, who hadn’t eaten in some time while struggling to reach the airport or had even been injured in the unrest, were provided with warm congee and biscuits before they took off. Once in the air, passengers were given more substantial meals of familiar foods such as noodles, dousha bao and salted duck eggs.

“I didn’t imagine we would be able to get home so quickly,” said one Chinese student. “There were 60 of us students, and we haven’t eaten for several days nor dare sleep for a week. Now the ordeal is over and we’re very grateful to Air China for taking us home.”

Mr. Kong Dong, President of Air China, said the company was proud to have been involved in the evacuation and glad to see everyone return home safely.