With closed-border policies and countries’ restrictions, transporting patients, health professionals, medical supplies or carrying out urgent missions like delivering stem cells and organs for transplants have been the major challenges for LATAM Airlines Group’s Solidary Plane programme in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Due to its commitment and effort during the pandemic, the Solidary Plane transported over 400 health professionals in order to address COVID-19 needs and also allowed more than 300 people suffering from various diseases to receive medical treatment or urgent surgery in the region. Additionally, for the first time ever, it landed in China in order to transport medical supplies, including mechanical ventilators.
Nine years after its implementation, the Solidary Plane has become a vital air bridge for humanitarian and health needs in Latin America. “The Solidary Plane is active all year round, and now more than ever it is flying to support the region in fighting one of the world’s worst health crisis. To this date, we have transported more than 400 tons of medical supplies including masks, rapid COVID-19 tests, mechanical ventilators and medicines, among others. This has benefitted Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina,” states LATAM Airlines Group’s head of sustainability, Francisca Arias.
Part of these supplies come from China in over 60-hour flights considering the round trip. A team of more than 30 people participate in these flights’ planning and execution, remaining a challenge for the airline. The company even decided to reconfigure two of their most modern Boeing aircraft (787 and 777), removing part of the cabin seats to increase cargo space.
A new chance at life
LATAM Cargo’s stem cell transportation was an unprecedented event that allowed the Solidary Plane to continue contributing to health matters. Since cargo flights are not restricted, the company implemented this resource in order to grant cancer patients from Chile and Argentina a new chance at life.
Three minors and one adult received the stem cells transported from Germany and Brazil. For the first time, the cells were guarded by the airplanes’ pilots during their transportation.
The Solidary Plane programme has a partnership with the DKMS Foundation, an institution that looks for compatible donors for blood cancer patients, regardless of their location.
The programme, present in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, transported more than 4,000 patients and multidisciplinary teams by the end of 2019. It also allowed over 800 organs and/or tissues to be transported, in addition to 87 tons of cargo in light of health needs and humanitarian aid.