You can donate to help commercial aviation fight the coronavirus pandemic

Apr 26, 2020

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Airlink, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that enlists airlines and other transportation providers to help with emergency situations, is raising $10 million to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Airlink, with a 10-year history of helping fight diseases and recover after natural disasters, says the $10 million includes cash and in-kind contributions to help with transportation and logistics costs. The money and contributions will also go toward helping communities affected by natural disasters during the pandemic. Airlink has done something similar during the Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015, when it helped transport supplies to West Africa after commercial airlines had suspended their flights to the region.

The way Airlink works is by acting as coordinator, finding space on flights and organizing shipment. Its network consists of more than 40 commercial and charter airlines including United and Southwest and more than 100 international NGOs.

The main problem in getting supplies like masks and gowns to where they are needed is, according to Airlink, that flights are scarce and prices very high. The organization says that while freighter service by airlines is still ongoing, “in some cases demand outstrips supply by 400 – 500%.” As a consequence, “prices now three times the norm for a trans-Pacific flight,” Airlink says.

Airlines are using passenger planes that aren’t flying people as makeshift cargo planes, carrying supplies in their belly holds and sometimes even in the cabin. But while that’s helping, getting supplies moved is still difficult. Airlines are stepping up.

For example, on April 16 United transported free of charge 50,000 N95 masks from San Francisco to Newark aboard a Boeing 787, as part of an effort coordinated with Medshare, another nonprofit helping with the coronavirus effort. The masks were coming from China.

Screen cap from Airlink

The flow goes toward Asia, too. In February, Polar Air Cargo helped carry 14,000 pounds of medical supplies to Wuhan, China, and United flew 5,000 pounds of kitchen equipment to Japan to help feed the passengers and crew of the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess.

You can donate here on the Airlink site, and you can also donate Alaska Airlines or United Airlines miles with a minimum donation of 500. Alaska miles are funneled to the airline’s disaster relief pool, which disburses them to several organizations including Airlink, while United miles go directly to Airlink. During the COVID-19 crisis, Airlink transported by its own account more than 21,000 pounds of supplies and delivered more than 400,000 pieces of personal protective equipment.

While helping fight the pandemic, Airlink is also still active in other humanitarian disaster zones, for example in the Marshall Islands, where it’s dealing with a dengue fever outbreak; Puerto Rico, where earthquakes have hit the island hard; and Australia, still reeling from brush fires.

Featured photo by Ryan Patterson / The Points Guy

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