China coronavirus: airlines ramping up efforts to contain risk of transmission among staff, passengers

South China Morning Post 發布於 2020年01月28日09:01 • Danny Lee danny.lee@scmp.com
  • Taiwan's China Airlines will make sweeping changes to its in-flight services to Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau
  • Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon have stopped pilots and cabin crew from staying overnight in mainland China until further notice
Airlines are ramping up efforts to contain the risk of transmitting the Wuhan coronavirus. Photo: Xinhua

Airlines are ramping up efforts to contain the risk of transmitting the Wuhan coronavirus, with Taiwan's China Airlines implementing measures to minimise contact between staff and passengers, and Cathay Pacific ending layovers in mainland China for pilots and cabin crew.

China Airlines will make sweeping changes to its in-flight services to Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau until further notice to limit the spread of the novel virus, the company announced, by reducing non-essential reusables for disposable items.

The precautions are being adopted amid concerns that all travellers infected with the coronavirus may not present immediate symptoms and the transmission of the virus is not well understood either.

Aircraft sections " including tray tables, arm rests and overhead luggage lockers " will also be treated with extra disinfection.

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Tablecloths and napkins will be swapped with paper towels, hot meals will be suspended and replaced by disposable meal boxes or bags, beverages and disposable headphones will only be served on request, and disposable headrest covers will be used.

In-flight amenities " such as blankets, pillows, towels, magazines and newspapers " will not be provided. All in-flight duty-free sales, except online orders, will be suspended.

The airline said in a statement, its "key considerations (are) to protect the health of passengers and crew members".

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Tigerair Taiwan, a budget airline subsidiary under China Airlines, said it would halt duty-free sales and stop carrying in-flight publications. Seat-back pockets will only carry a safety card and a sick bag.

China Airlines operates 136 flights to 16 destinations on the mainland a week and 111 services to Hong Kong, while its budget unit serves Macau around 42 times a week.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon have since last Sunday stopped pilots and cabin crew from staying overnight in mainland China until further notice.

"We will reduce, as much as possible, our overnight layovers at all ports in mainland China until further notice," a Cathay Pacific Group spokeswoman said.

The airline's flights to eight destinations and more than a dozen flights in total that operated in the evening moved to early morning departures to reduce the layovers, including a trio of flights each destined for Beijing and Shanghai.

Hong Kong's flagship carrier Cathay Pacific and its regional wing Cathay Dragon serve 22 airports on the mainland through 850 weekly flights in both directions during peak periods.

The group earlier authorised its cabin crew on all flights and airport staff to wear masks to protect themselves from the virus. Finnair, American Airlines, and United Airlines have also authorised their in-flight staff to wear surgical masks for flights to and from China.

Call to temporarily close mainland borders to prevent epidemic

Emirates recommended its crew to stay in hotels provided for layovers on the mainland, while suggesting them avoid large crowds. The Middle East carrier flies to three mainland destinations, including Beijing and Shanghai, operating approximately 46 flights a week. But, it does not fly to Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Airports across the world are stepping up screening on passengers from China, while many major airlines have offered travellers the options to seek refunds for cancellations or reschedule their bookings to the country.

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