Altruism in the air: Shouldn't more airlines lend their wings in times of crisis?

Altruism in the air: Shouldn't more airlines lend their wings in times of crisis?

Not mere flights of fancy

Text: Denise Kok

Image: Getty Images

Natural disasters are on the rise. The burden of relief shouldn't fall solely on governments and humanitarian organisations

When it comes to one-upmanship in the air, the sky appears to be the limit. Airlines are constantly finding ways to seduce the finicky flier: There are seats that recline just that much further; lounges that come equipped with hairdressers and finely tuned table service; and even freshly baked cookies that make their rounds just before touchdown. 

All these bells and whistles might make for great mileage on the PR front, but there are airlines that chart a more altruistic course, unsung heros whose efforts in the skies go beyond the comfort of those who've paid for a seat. 

buro in nepal thai airways
Take for example Thai Airways, one of 13 airlines in the Airbus Foundation that has pledged the use of delivery flights to transport emergency relief materials. During the recent 72nd International Air Transport Association General Meeting, the call for more airlines to lend their wings in times of crisis was one of the key messages that surfaced time and again. 

This call comes in the wake of estimates that natural disasters will continue to escalate in the face of shifting climate forces. Coupled with the fact that 60 per cent of humanitarian funding goes towards meeting the cost of supply chain management, private entities such as airline companies have an instrumental part to play in easing this burden. 

buro in nepal thai airways

When a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April last year, airlines were quick to cut their flights into Kathamandu. Thai Airways, however, continued to ply their daily route into the disaster-struck region. Beyond ferrying passengers between Kathmandu and Bangkok, the airline partnered with the Royal Thai Government, Thai armed forces, and the Thai Red Cross to transport relief aid, medical personnel, and provide rescue assistance on the ground. As one of the first responders in the region to the crisis, the airline brought in relief goods such as food, tents, medicine, first aid equipment, and water. Beyond that, they also helped to faciliate the transport of rescue equipment as well as civilian and military rescue units.

Given the scale of rescue efforts, crisis management operations are clearly not birthed overnight. Christine South of the Disaster and Crisis Management Department Programme Services Division of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has pointed out that airlines can also render help in other ways, such as harnessing delivery flights or utilising warehouses to store goods awaiting transport. 

Air services play an essential role in facilitating aid to a disaster zone and serve as valuable partners to governments and aid agencies. Perhaps the next item on the agenda of airline companies should be disaster relief, and not so much the race to push bigger planes into the sky.

Special thanks to Leica Camera Asia Pacific
 for supporting the #BuroGivesBack project.

Thai Airways flys from Singapore to Kathmandu daily. To book your flight with Thai Airways, click here

thai airways