88 European and British citizens were repatriated from Fiji on a United Kingdom chartered, Fiji Airways operated flight on 29 April 2020, bringing the total number of Europeans repatriated from Fiji due to COVID-19 pandemic to above 400.
The Fiji Airways plane flew out of the Nadi International Airport at 11:25am Thursday bound for Melbourne, Australia with onwards connections to fly back to Europe. Following the first cases of COVID-19 in Fiji on 19 March 2020, the Nadi International Airport was closed and all regular flights were suspended to contain the outbreak of the pandemic.
This presented a very challenging environment to bring home nearly 1000 Europeans who were stranded across 13 Pacific island countries, most of them in Fiji. Previous rounds of repatriation flights on 7 and 13 from Fiji reunited nearly 350 Europeans with their loves ones in Europe.
In addition, 120 Europeans were brought home from Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Cook Islands on 8, 17 and 19 April 2020, bringing the total number of Europeans repatriated from the Pacific in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to over 500.
The United Kingdom chartered this sweeper flight and activated the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, which allows for a financial contribution from the European Union to the charter cost, as European passengers were on board the flight.
The Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific and to Fiji, H.E Sujiro Seam, together with the British High Commissioner H.E. Melanie Hopkins, farewelled the European and British passengers in the cabin just before take-off, saying: ”I am so happy that so many of you made it on this last chartered repatriation flight for Europeans from the Pacific.
This concludes more than a month of efforts and coordination with local governments, airline companies and European Diplomatic Missions, to bring Europeans from Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu back home.”
The Delegation of the European Union will now shift its focus to the Solomon Islands and Palau, where Europeans are still looking for ways to fly back home.