Kenya Flights Continue as Airlines Asked to Follow WHO on Ebola

Published on : Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kenya-Airways-logo-300x89The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said airlines should maintain services to Ebola-hit regions that need connections with the outside world.

Citing World Health Organization advice that aviation constitutes a “low risk” for Ebola transmission IATA said yesterday that the industry needs only to monitor passengers at airports in infected areas, apply careful measures including isolation when handling suspected cases, and disinfect planes afterward.

IATA stated after Africa’s third-largest carrier, Kenya Airways Ltd. said on the advice of the Kenyan health ministry on Aug. 16 that it would stop flying today to Liberia and Sierra Leone which together with Guinea are the focus of the Ebola outbreak.


That’s after Korean
Air Lines Co. (003490) said it would end trips to Nairobi on Aug. 20 because of the risk of infection spreading there via services from West Africa.

IATA’s vice president for Africa Raphael Kuuchi said while some carriers have chosen to stop serving affected nations as a safety measure, others may be reaching a “commercial decision” based on a decline in travel demand to and from affected countries as news of the
outbreak makes headlines around the world.

The WHO said yesterday that in order to coordinate efforts to contain Ebola’s spread and provide timely updates to passengers it will establish a travel and transport task force also featuring the heads of IATA and other major industry bodies.

The WHO-led task force will
include the heads of the World Tourism Organization, Airports Council International, the United Nations-backed International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Travel & Tourism Council, as well as IATA, which has 240 airline members accounting for 84 percent of global traffic.

The WHO has already said that the risk of Ebola transmission from air travel is low, but the level of fear is so high that several airlines have disregarded the UN agency’s advice. The disease has already killed at least 1,145 people across West Africa this year.

“Ebola is a terrible disease but it is not easy to contract,” IATA’s Kuuchi said. “It can only be caught through contact with bodily fluids.

It is almost impossible to be infected by someone on a flight.”

Among operators closer to the Ebola outbreak, Gambia Bird, Togo-based Asky Airlines and Nigeria’s Arik Air had all earlier halted at least some flights into the area. Among top carriers, British Airways and Emirates have also scrapped services.

Ghana’s Transport Minister Dzifa Aku Attivor said at the South African conference that of 45 suspected Ebola cases in the country, all were negative and that it will follow WHO recommendations and continue flights to affected regions.

Spokeswoman Kim Daenen said yesterday, Brussels Airlines, the only carrier from outside Africa that serves all three Ebola-hit nations is continuing with its normal schedule.

The carrier, which provides the bulk of West African flights for Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA), a 45 percent shareholder, has consulted with the WHO and the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp.

Air France (AF) said it’s maintaining flights to Sierra Leone and Guinea, while putting in place a specific Ebola plan there and in Lagos.

Should a passenger exhibit symptom on a flight they’re isolated, given a mask and must use a separate washroom.

FastJet CEO Winter said the best outcome is for the impact from Ebola to prove a short-term blip.

The discount operator has its main hub in Tanzania and currently serves only east and southern African destinations, though its aim is to become a pan-continental carrier with operations in West Africa, too.

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