London, Wednesday, April 7, 1999: Almost 25 tonnes of emergency aid donated by the British public will be airlifted to the Balkans by British Airways tomorrow morning.
The supplies on board the special Boeing 757 flight have been given by the airline’s employees and UK businesses and readers of The Express in response to an appeal launched by the newspaper last week.
The aircraft is due to take off from RAF Lyneham at 11 am, taking a little more than three hours to reach Thessaloniki, in Northern Greece, which is outside the air exclusion zone. The supplies will be taken by road the 220 kms onwards to Macedonia, where there are more than 100,000 refugees, many without shelter, possessions or food.
Seats will be taken out of the aircraft’s passenger cabins today to enable it to lift five times its normal cargo payload. The airline’s 757s typically carry 5.2 tonnes of cargo and up to 195 passengers.
It will be flown by an all volunteer crew - Captain Frank Zubiel, with First Officers Joe Doherty and Phil Dales.
The airline is preparing a second relief flight on Saturday to carry more supplies, with the response to its joint appeal with The Express exceeding all expectations.
On board tomorrow will be clothing donated by the public and companies like Littlewoods Asda, Joe Bloggs and Jeffery Rogers, nappies and baby food from Boots, Cow and Gate and Mothercare, and food from the likes of the Co-op, Holland and Barrett and Jordans. Many other companies are also donating items, from Tampax to Mars.
The airline and newspaper are working closely with leading charities like UNICEF ( the United Nations Children’s Fund), the Red Cross and UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission for Refugees).
As well as being a corporate patron of the Red Cross, British Airways has worked in partnership with UNICEF for the past five years, raising over £7 million from passengers and staff who give their foreign coins to the charity in-flight. UNICEF said it is donating £92,000 from this “Change for Good” fund to provide aid to the children of Kosovo.
Mike Street, British Airways’ Director of Customer Service and Operations, who is personally supervising arrangements for the special relief flights, said: “The plight of these poor children, women and men in Kosovo is beyond words. We are only too pleased to be able to be able to help in this small way. People throughout British Airways have responded tremendously, organising this operation and donating thousands of items of emergency supplies.”
Express Editor Rosie Boycott said: “This is a wonderful gesture by British Airways. What is happening in Kosovo is a horrible human disaster, the worst in Europe since World War 2.”