The French government has chartered a Qatar Airways 777-300ER to fly from Christchurch to Paris via Perth to repatriate citizens.

The flight represents the airline’s first passenger flight to the South Island’s largest city and comes as the business continues to soldier on despite the coronavirus crisis.

The aircraft will leave its base in Doha on Tuesday, 14 April and arrive in Christchurch the following day, before beginning the journey on Thursday.

The flight will be operated by a Boeing 777-300ER with 24 seats in business and 388 seats in economy.

Despite the vast majority of airlines worldwide grounding most of their international flights, Qatar has capitalised on the pandemic by continuing to fly amid a “taking you home” publicity blitz.

The airline previously announced it would add an extra 48,000 seats on passenger services from Doha to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane from 29 March until mid-April.

Meanwhile, at the start of April, Qatar Cargo began freighter flights to and from Australia due to strong demand for the nation’s pharmaceuticals and fresh produce during the COVID-19 crisis.

The twice-weekly journeys to Melbourne and Perth, with a tech stop at Singapore, added 200 tonnes of main deck cargo capacity each week, each way.

Previously, the airline operated only belly-hold services.

The Christchurch-Perth mission is the second announced flight to repatriate French citizens in Australia and New Zealand.

On Saturday, 11 April, a Virgin Australia 777-300ER began a multi-leg repatriation flight from Brisbane to Paris, via Auckland and Hong Kong.

Virgin Australia told Executive Traveller, “As a major Australian carrier we are pleased to support the government in getting Australians home and maintaining important freight links into the country. We’re also happy to help return others to their home countries.”


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