Things have never been this bad for Asian airlines. SARS, not
the Iraqi War, is the reason.
In an attempt to recoup some public confidence in air transport
as a safe means of conveyance, a number of Asian carriers have
instituted strict new measures aimed at stifling the spread of
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
Singapore Airlines, whose Asian business is taking a big hit, is
providing masks for all fliers and crew on flights departing from
Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Taiwan and
Kaohsiung. The carrier is stepping up disinfection of its fleet
with a solution recommended by the World Health Organization.
Armrests, tray tables, overhead bins, and toilets are all getting
China Southern Airlines, headquarted in Guangzhou, the epicenter
of the epidemic, has created a SARS Protection & Work Force
Task Force. Among measures already undertaken, China Southern said
it’s constantly disinfecting ticket counters, lounges, and check-in
areas, “from early morning to late evening every day.”
The disinfection doesn’t end there. All in-flight equipment,
including seats and tray tables, are disinfected before and after
each flight. Prior to each flight, ground staff clean and disinfect
all vent holes in the aircraft.
Blankets and pillows are used for one flight only. All China
Southern flight attendants are wearing single-use gloves while
serving in-flight meals.
Each aircraft is equipped with facemasks and gloves for
passengers who want them.
China Southern said any passengers suspected of exhibiting SARS
symptoms will be denied boarding, and any China Southern employee
showing possible symptoms will be sent to a pre-designate hospital
Cathay Pacific’s home port, of course, is Hong Kong. And no
other city has suffered as much the tourist and business
Cathay’s measures include making sure passengers showing SARS
symptoms don’t board their aircraft, exchanging cabin air every
three to five minutes and filtering that air through special “High
Efficiency Particle Air” (HEPA) devices. Boeing said HEPA filters
trap “more than 99.9 percent” of airborne contaminants.
Cathay is cleaning aircraft in accordance with procedures issued
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Galley counters,
passenger tray tables, seat armrests, seatbacks, light and panel
controls, passenger tray tables, toilet counters, and other common
surfaces are disinfected following each stop.
As with China Southern, surgical facemasks are available to
passengers and crew for the asking.
Should the cabin crew identify a passenger exhibiting SARS
symptoms during the flight, they’ve been instructed to quarantine
them in a specially designated lavatory and give them a facemask.
Cathay crews can get medical input from a physician 24/7 via
Medlink, an air to ground medical communication system.
Dr. Rose Ong, Cathay Pacific’s medical services manager, said,
“We will continue to monitor the evolving scientific data
concerning the virus and will adjust our policies and procedures in
light of this advice.”
U.S. Flight attendants think all airlines should follow the lead
of Asian carriers. They’re requesting that the Federal Aviation
Administration issue an emergency order requiring that
* provide flight attendants with non-latex gloves and masks on
flights to and from high-risk areas;
* make in-flight announcements to passengers, and further
communicate the importance of thorough and regular hand washing,
and not touching one’s face;
* develop, implement, and enforce passenger screening standards
as recommended by the World Health Organization and Centers of
Disease Control and Prevention.