KLM has sent an empty plane to pick up 278 stranded tourists from Ukraine in the Dominican Republic and fly them back to Europe for free.
The tourists from Ukraine were on holiday on the Dominican Republic when their country got invaded by Russia.
However, their flight home got cancelled as due to the closure of Ukrainian airspace their charter flight back could no longer operate.
Fortunately for the holidaymakers, a KLM flight attendant with Ukrainian roots jumped to their rescue.
According to Dutch newspaper Telegraaf, the flight attendant managed to convince KLM bosses to send a rescue flight to pick up the stranded Ukrainian tourists.
A KLM spokesman said: “She knew that a lot of people were stranded in the Dominican Republic.”
KLM’s rescue flight
As luck would have it, a KLM Airbus A330-300 (tail number PH-AKB) was about to fly empty back to Amsterdam from Port of Spain, the capital of the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
The aircraft was supposed to have flown back to Amsterdam last Monday (28th February) but a technical problem caused the plane to be grounded for maintenance in Port of Spain.
When the Airbus A330 was finally repaired, it was a no-brainer for KLM’s route planners to add a stop in the Dominican Republic on its flight back to Amsterdam.
On Friday evening, the KLM plane flew from Port of Spain to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to pick up the 278 stranded Ukrainian tourists.
From Punta Cana, the KLM aeroplane flew back to Amsterdam where it arrived at 12.21pm on Saturday.
According to the KLM spokesman, the costs for the flight will be paid entirely by the Dutch flag carrier.
The repatriation flight was operated by a crew of 3 pilots and 8 flight attendants.
KLM flight attendant Pien Metz, who was part of the flight crew, said it was a “special repatriation flight” as “these passengers cannot continue home”.
She said: “Some were apathic, others exhausted and sad after days of stress.
“They shared their stories after a night’s sleep, when it became light in the morning. The tensions were gone and the tears started to flow.”
A spokesman of the IND, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service, said that most of the Ukrainian passengers will continue their travel to Poland in the coming days.
For those who wish to stay in the Netherlands, a special shelter has been made available in the town of Ede.
However, some passengers still face challenging situations.
Ms Metz said: “There were some families who left the smallest children behind with grandpa and grandma before they went on holiday, but they are now in a besieged city.”
According to international media, there are still thousands of tourists stuck in the Dominican Republic alone.
It is estimated that some 2,000 tourists from Ukraine are still stuck in the Dominican Republic, as are 15,000 Russians.
As the US, Canada and the European Union have closed their airspace for Russian planes, airline companies have not yet been able to pick them up.
Russian tourists stranded abroad also face increasing problems getting cash money and paying for services since banks in their country have been excluded from the SWIFT banking system and MasterCard, VISA and American Express have suspended their operations in Russia.
It’s great to see that KLM took its social responsibility seriously and flew back 278 stranded tourists from Ukraine free of charge.
Even though by sheer luck the Dutch airline had an empty plane relatively close by, it would still have cost them a significant sum of money to operate this flight due to the extra stop and extra tons of fuel needed to fly a full plane back instead of an empty one.
I really do hope that all the other stranded passengers will also make it safely back home soon.
Of course, that first and foremost counts for the tourists from Ukraine whose home country has been so brutally invaded and ravaged by war.
That said, I also do feel for the Russian tourists who are stranded and unable to access their money.
Although their plight of course pales to the situation the Ukrainian people are in, let’s not forget that many Russians are ordinary people like you and me who also have no love lost for Putin and who do not support this war at all.
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