As Muslim nations prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, Turkish Airlines will mount nearly 200 rescue flights this week to bring home Turkish nationals that have been stranded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Anadolu News Agency reports that the Turkish national flag carrier will operate a massive nine-day program to repatriate Turkish citizens that have been affected by border closures around the world.
The Istanbul-based airline plans to mount 195 flights to bring home nearly 25,000 Turkish nationals from 59 countries. This move follows the closure of airports and ports as the world tries to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
“Thousands of citizens who went abroad as tourists, students, or temporary workers will be able to join their families by the holy month of Ramadan,” the company said in a statement Monday, describing this service as a “national responsibility.”
To make sure the repatriation flights are a success, Turkish Airlines will be deploying 100 planes from its massive fleet of 311 aircraft.
“With unity and solidarity, we will once again carry out an exemplary operation,” said Ilker Ayci, Turkish Airlines’ chairman.
Turkish Airlines says that it expects to bring home as many as 3,269 Turkish citizens from Germany, 2,201 from Saudi Arabia, 1,631 from the United States, and 1,559 from the United Kingdom.
The airline said that the decision was made to abide by a national directive from the Turkish authorities to protect public health during the coronavirus emergency.
Previously the airline had said that it had wanted to resume international flights after April 17 but had now extended its flight suspensions a little over a month longer.
Meanwhile, domestic flights are now suspended until May 1.
While no longer operating commercial flights, the airline said that it will continue to operate certain cargo flights to help deliver much-needed medical supplies and food products.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in December, the virus has spread to 185 countries and regions around the world. The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has released up to date data that shows that the coronavirus has now infected as many as 2.4 million people and is responsible for 165,000 deaths around the world.
Other than cargo flights and repatriations, the airline industry has come to a near standstill as airlines around the world ground their fleets. Now with no revenue coming in and employees furloughed, airlines around the world are begging governments for financial support.
Despite the bleak financial picture, Turkish Airlines has been in business since 1933 and flies to more destinations around the world than any other airline. Also, being nearly 50% owned by the Turkish state, we can almost certainly guarantee that Turkish Airlines will still be in business once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.