The largest international airline in the world by passenger numbers has told cabin crew headed to China to stay in their hotel rooms during layovers and to avoid any large gatherings of people. An internal memo sent by the Dubai-based airline’s in-house medical team early on Monday told cabin crew they would be provided with a personal hand sanitizer each and two face masks when operating flights to China.
Etihad Airways, also confirmed it would start allowing cabin crew to wear face masks on flights to China and will be loading extra supplies of the masks, along with plastic gloves, hand sanitizer and so-called Universal Precaution Kits (UPK’s) on all of its flights.
Echoing advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Emirates told staffers to maintain good hygiene and to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Cabin crew were also advised to avoid close contact with people who have a fever or cough – sensible advice that has received scorn from the crew community because of the nature of their jobs.
“It is recommended that during the layover in China you stay in the crew hotel and avoid going to areas with large gatherings of people,” the memo reads. Crew were also told the familiarise themselves with their First Aid and prevention of infectious disease training.
Emirates currently operates more than 38 flights to mainland China including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, as well as to the special administrative region of Hong Kong. Emirates did not detail in its memo whether Hong Kong would be included in the list of destinations to receive the additional health precautions.
On Saturday, Hong Kong’s chief executive said the territory would be raising its response level to the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak to Emergency level – the highest available. As of Monday, eight people had been diagnosed with the novel Coronavirus in Hong Kong but there have been no reported deaths outside of mainland China.
Chinese officials say over 3,000 people have been infected with the virus and at least 81 people have died. There is no vaccine or cure for the new illness.
The vast majority of airlines in the region, as well as a growing number of international carriers including the likes of United and Finnair, are now allowing their cabin crew to wear face masks and other protective items when operating flights to or from China.
“It is important that crew redouble efforts to take the best steps against spread of communicable disease,” warned the Association of Flight Attendants over the weekend, which represents crew at United Airlines amongst others.
Pressure from AFA is said to have convinced United to allow crew to wear face masks on its direct flights between the United States and China. AFA is also calling for gloves, masks and UPK’s to be bulk loaded onto all flights to fight the spread of the infection.
While Emirates and Etihad are allowing crew to wear face masks the other big Persian-gulf carrier, Qatar Airways has not yet shifted its position. Both gloves and surgical face masks are strictly forbidden on all flights.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.