Skip to content

A look inside the 747 that evacuated Americans from Wuhan

Jan. 30, 2020
5 min read
A look inside the 747 that evacuated Americans from Wuhan
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The 201 Americans who have been evacuated from Wuhan, China, this week amid the coronavirus outbreak have returned to the U.S. in a most unusual way: aboard a cargo jet.

Related coverage: Coronavirus cases now outnumber SARS outbreak

The U.S. government chartered for the occasion a Boeing 747 freighter from Kalitta Air, a cargo-only airline based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, instead of a regular passenger airplane. The 747 was fitted with passenger seats for this flight, according to a post by Facebook page Airline Secrets Exposed, which says it publishes submissions from airline insiders.

An image published by the Facebook page shows the main deck of a 747 freighter with several rows of seats in 3-4-3 layout. The image shows at least 200 seats, consistent with what we know about the plane, which had 240 seats installed.

Passengers would have had no windows, since the cargo versions of 747 do not have any on the main deck.

The 747, a 18-year old freighter registered N705CK, stopped in Anchorage to refuel on the way from Wuhan to March Air Reserve Base, near Riverside, California. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska's chief medical officer, said at a news conference on Wednesday, after the plane had left Alaska, that the plane was able to carry 240 people but only held 201.

"The whole plane erupted into cheers when the crew welcomed them back to the United States," Zink was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

We have asked Kalitta Air for confirmation of the authenticity of the images, and whether the plane has been decontaminated after landing in Riverside, but haven't heard back by publication time.

It's not clear at this time why the government decided to charter a cargo jet specially outfitted with passenger seats, instead of a regular airliner. We do, however, know the 747 has a peculiarity which makes it ideally suited for evacuating potentially contagious people: Its upper deck, where the cockpit is, can be closed off from the passengers on the main deck.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Indeed, according to the AP, the flight crew stayed on the upper deck for the whole flight, sealed off from passengers, and did not get off the plane in China. Flight-tracking site FlightRadar24 shows that the plane landed in Wuhan at 10:14 p.m. local on January 28 and left at 4:54 a.m. the following day. Since the flight crossed the International Date Line eastbound, the plane arrived in Alaska the day before it left China.

Also according to FR24, the 747 has already left California. On Wednesday, it took off from March at 2:28 p.m. and landed about two and a half hours later in Seattle, where it remains at the time of this writing.

Screenshot from Flightradar24

Zink said all passengers had been through two screenings in China and were screened twice more in Anchorage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Anchorage, they stayed inside the airport's North Terminal, which according to airport manager Jim Szczesniak is rarely used during the Alaskan winter. It's separated from the domestic terminal and has its own ventilation systems.

TOPSHOT - Personnel in biological hazard suits await passengers evacuated from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of a growing outbreak of the deadly 2019 Novel Coronavirus shortly after the plane landed at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California on January 29, 2020. - Some 200 US citizens evacuated from Wuhan were met on the tarmac by emergency vehicles and three buses. The Department of Defense said the evacuees will be sent to local hospitals if they are suspected of being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. The epidemic has killed more than 130 people and spread around the world since it first emerged in a live food market in Wuhan in December. (Photo by Matt HARTMAN / AFP) (Photo by MATT HARTMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Personnel in biological hazard suits await passengers evacuated from Wuhan at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California (Photo by MATT HARTMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Photographers who saw the 747 land at March said it was met on the tarmac by emergency vehicles and three buses. The Department of Defense said the evacuees will be sent to local hospitals if they are suspected of being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, which has killed around 170 people and spread around the world since it first emerged in a food market in Wuhan in December. On Thursday, the New York Times reported, authorities found the first case of transmission from person to person in the U.S. The infected person is the husband of a woman who returned from Wuhan, but was not on the evacuation plane.

Featured image by Getty Images

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more