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Airlines Respond to Ebola Epidemic

Brussels Airlines, the Lufthansa Group and Air France have all taken measures to avoid the potential spread of the Ebola virus currently affecting some western and central African nations. The successor to the Belgium flag carrier SABENA has an 80-year association with Africa and has recently expanded its route structure across the continent. Despite disruptions and deaths caused by Ebola almost all cases have been recorded in remote areas and the carrier has continued to provide a vital role in linking Africa.

“We have put in place numerous measures, including daily risk assessments, passenger screenings, and protective measures to protect passengers and crews from any potential dangers of contagions no matter how remote,” Wencke Lemmes-Pireaux, the company’s Vice President for Corporate Communications explained to Airliner World.

Ebola can only be contracted by contact with the bodily fluids of infected humans and animals and has a quick incubation before symptoms develop, making it difficult for infected people to get to get to an airport, let alone travel. The probability of being infected with Ebola on an aircraft is very low, but Brussels Airlines is taking special precautions to ensure the health of its passengers and staff, especially on its links to Conakry, Monrovia and Freetown which are at the centre of the current epidemic. Suspending flights and cutting off those countries from medical, economic and disaster relief support is not viewed as an option for the Belgian carrier, although services have been cancelled for diplomatic and bureaucratic reasons. Brussels Airlines has its own medical department which takes part in daily risk assessments as well as consulting with the World Health Organization’s Tropical Institute in Antwerp and medical analysts of the Lufthansa Group enabling the airline to operate safely in affected areas. All precautions are being taken to prevent any possibility of Ebola infecting a flight. The airport perimeter is the main line of medical defence as access is heavily restricted to ticketed passengers and staff only. Aircraft are being kept isolated. To add to preventive measures, thermal scans are taken of passenger body temperatures at the airport entrance, check-in and by Brussels Airlines officials at the boarding gate. Special medical kits are carried on board, while flight crews overnight at hotels isolated from possible infection. Air France has temporarily suspended its thrice-weekly links to Freetown, Sierra Leone following a request from the French Government on August 28 prompted by the spread of the virus. The decision came a day after British Airways suspended services to Liberia and Sierra Leone until next year due to concern about Ebola.

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Airliner World
November 2014

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