Airlines Begin Ferrying Teams To The Olympic Games

With the Tokyo Olympics now just over two weeks away, countries are gearing up to send their best athletes to Japan to compete. Flag carriers from around the world have begun flying in Tokyo with planes flying their premier athletes. In the last few days, British Airways, Austrian Airlines, United, and more have flown to Tokyo for the Olympics.

Tokyo Getty
While the Olympic’s were delayed a year due to the pandemic, they will take place this year instead. Photo: Getty Images

Ready to go

As we edge closer to the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on 23rd July, preparations are in full swing. Every national carrier plays an important role during the Olympics Games, usually carrying scores of athletes and thousands of fans to the chosen city every four years. Things are a bit different this year, with no foreign fans allowed in Tokyo, but athletes are still on their way.

ANA Olympics 2020 Livery
Flag carriers of the host country usually reveal their liveries years in advance of the games, with ANA and JAL doing the same. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines usually partner with their national Olympic committees to carry athletes every two years (summer and winter games). This task almost always falls to the flag carrier, with exceptions made if an airline doesn’t have a single one or cannot fly to the locations of the games.

On their way

The first of Team GB athletes left London Heathrow on Tuesday, flying British Airways for their nearly 12-hour journey. More athletes, sponsors, and management will make their way to Tokyo in the coming days, likely using one of BA’s commercial services.

Austria’s first Olympians began flying out on July 5th, flying with Austrian Airlines on one of their Boeing 777s. The carrier has been the long-time partner of the national Olympic committee, giving it the chance to fly athletes to every game. A large part of the Austrian Olympic Team will leave on July 16th, with the carrier increasing its frequencies to Tokyo from two to three times every week in July to cater to the demand.

Austrian Airlines Olympics
The logistics of flying during the pandemic can be complicated and require airlines to plan far in advance. Photo: Austrian Airlines

United has gone a step further with its plans. As the official airline partner for Team USA, the carrier released a new ad with Olympians and Paralympians to celebrate the games and encourage people to travel once again. United has been flying Team USA for over four decades now, which is notable since the US doesn’t have one flag carrier.

Limited access

For spectators this year, access to Tokyo remains off-limits. The surge of cases in Japan means that the government opted to ban foreign spectators in the Spring and is now considering removing domestic ones too, a huge blow to airlines. This means the Olympics game may take place behind closed doors, a rare occurrence but one that has become usual during COVID.

For the thousands of athletes participating in the 2020 Olympics, flying their flag carrier is a source of pride in most cases. After a year-long delay, the anticipation for the games is as high as ever, with everyone watching closely and rooting for their nation.


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