The seventeen members of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), the regional airline trade organisation, have responded and are continuing to respond to the recent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak with sweeping measures.
“The wellbeing of our customers and employees is of prime importance and AAPA members are making every effort to ensure that our passengers and crew can fly with peace of mind,” said Richard Stirland, Director General of AAPA. “To date, we know of no confirmed case of anyone contracting the disease while travelling on an aircraft.”
“Our members have years of experience in dealing with health issues; we have systems and procedures which can be immediately deployed and this has been done. We have also adopted the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in screening and caring for suspected SARS cases,” Stirland said.
Existing aircraft systems and procedures, in place for years, include high efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) which provide an air quality comparable to hospital operating theatres and cabin airflow systems which in turn provide more air exchange per hour than office buildings. Airlines use cleaning, sterilization and disinfection procedures of internationally approved standards such as the guidelines issued by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA.
Measures currently being taken among AAPA members are:
1. Close cooperation with government health authorities and quarantine stations at airports of departure and arrival through:
a. Pre-boarding screening passengers for SARS symptoms: denial of boarding in suspected cases
b. Assisting authorities in ensuring required health declaration forms are given to passengers; distribution of such forms by cabin crew prior to landing
c. Cooperating fully with authorities for passenger notification and medical surveillance
d. Maintaining close contact with health authorities to obtain latest information and instructions
e. Complying with health authorities’ advice and directives
2. Dissemination of information on SARS at airports to travellers and employees
a. Display of WHO advice, Travel advisories by posters, leaflets and/or signage at airport check-in counters
b. Company-wide health education campaigns for staff
3. Inflight :
a. Increasing fresh air circulation
b. Disposing of towels and leftover food
c. Sterilizing of catering utensils after use
d. Providing masks on certain routes for passengers and crew. On some routes, catering gloves are provided for crew to be used during the serving of food and beverages.
e. Isolating any passenger displaying SARS symptoms and in such a case, providing masks for crew and neighbouring passengers; recording of passengers’ details and alerting airport of destination
4. Hygiene and Aircraft Cleaning
a. Increased disinfection and sterilization of aircraft on departure and arrival
b. Air-conditioners are cleaned and filters changed more frequently
c. Areas disinfected include seats, armrests, meal tables, window shades, surfaces of lavatories & galleys
“The airlines fully appreciate their responsibility to the international community in general and their passengers and staff in particular during this crisis, and have acted accordingly. What can be done is being done and efforts will be unremitting until SARS is no longer a threat,” Stirland said.
About the AAPA:
The AAPA is a grouping of 17 scheduled international airlines based in the Asia-Pacific region. It is the trade association of the region`s airlines, created to represent their interests and to provide a forum for all members to exchange information and views on matters of common concern. For more information about the AAPA, please visit the web site at www.AAPAirlines.org.
The 17 members comprises Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airlines, China Airlines, Dragonair, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippines Airlines, Qantas Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines