Flying travellers, flight attendants, airport workers and pilots are perhaps the most worried lot as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads. The spread of coronavirus has seen most countries close their borders while calling people to adopt social distancing to contain the disease.
But airline workers cannot social-distance as they are still serving travellers who have not cancelled or postponed their trips.
Air carriers are taking measures to prevent spread among workers and travellers, a move set to increase costs for the airlines.
Among them British Airways said it has enhanced aircraft cleaning including adding extra staff. Others provide sanitisers and masks to crew members and travellers.
“We have reviewed and made changes to our cleaning programme for aircraft including increasing our cleaning teams and audit inspections. Our disinfectants are used on every aircraft after each flight to thoroughly clean all hard surfaces in the cabins and lavatories,” the airline said.
To curb spread from surfaces, airlines say their aircraft are fitted with high efficiency filters which remove minute particles and contamination.
“They [filters] provide the same level of air filtration as hospital operating theatres,” British Airways said.
Dubai-based international airline, Emirates said it had fully activated crisis management centre since January to monitor the situation.
“These measures include providing medical advice to the staff, implementation of practices at the airport to meet specific country travel requirements as well as adjusting our schedule and amending capacity to meet passenger demand across different regions,”’ it said.
The state-owned airline on March 12, announced to apply thermal screening measures for passengers travelling on US flights departing from Dubai International Airport.
It also suspended flights between Dubai and Italy, the country mostly hit by the virus outside China.
The airline has said some of those “knock on effect of the operational changes’’ has resulted in the need of more resources than other areas.
As it intended to protect the workforce and limit interaction with possible infected people, the company asked its employees including pilots to take unpaid leave voluntarily for a month.
The airline forms one the global airline to report slowdown in activity in certain markets.
“Where we are alerted to any suspect or confirmed cases of infectious diseases, we will disinfect all cabins of those aircraft,” Emirates said.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has called on governments to ensure cargo operations are not disrupted to ensure sustained availability of medical supplies such as ventilators, masks, and other health and hygiene items that will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, as the passenger numbers drop, the virus is expected to be the biggest challenge for airlines this year. International Air Transport Association (IATA) has increased its estimation of losses to Sh11.77 trillion ($113 billion) over the affected bookings.