RIYADH: More than 180 Saudis stranded in Los Angeles returned to Riyadh amid jubilant scenes on Friday after a record-breaking, 40-hour repatriation flight.
Four air crew, including eight pilots and copilots, 43 navigators and 35 flight attendants, were given a heroes’ welcome after manning the Saudia Boeing 777 aircraft on its record-breaking journey to bring 187 Saudi citizens home.
Preparations for the flight began after King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called for the repatriation of Saudis stranded abroad who were unable to return home due to the cancelation of trips amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudia flight SV42 touched down King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh at 9 p.m. on Friday after a round trip to LA, flying over 13,400 km for 17 hours non-stop on each leg of the journey.
Air crew, including a record 43 flight navigators, worked in shifts for more than 40 hours without a layover in Los Angeles.
The Saudia repatriation flight left King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah at 8 a.m. on Thursday.
The flight returned to Jeddah at 6 p.m. on Friday for a 90-minute stopover for meals and refueling before another Saudia crew took the passengers to their final destination in Riyadh.
Flight SV42 was greeted by the air traffic controller at Jeddah airport: “The Saudi Civil Aviation Authority and Saudi Arabian Airlines welcome you to the skies of the dearest nation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The whole country has followed your trip step by step. You have achieved an unprecedented accomplishment and brought our dear citizens back with you.”
The pilot responded: “Speaking for myself and on behalf of my fellow navigators, we would like to express our appreciation for the wise leadership that has done everything it could to ensure the safety of its people.”