Since late January, Cathay Pacific has allowed its flight attendants to wear surgical masks and gloves on all flights as part of efforts to help crew protect themselves from the novel Coronavirus. Before this point, the airline had only allowed flight attendants to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) on flights to Wuhan and other destinations in mainland China.
The decision to extend the use of PPE came after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Hong Kong was identified but at this point the virus hadn’t taken a grip of Europe, which has now been declared the epicentre of the outbreak, or in the United States which is seeing numbers rise rapidly.
Unlike Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines, the use of face masks and gloves is at the discretion of individual crew members, although in effect all flight attendants and ground staff are now wearing them. But could the protection go still further?
According to the Cathay Pacific flight attendants union, the airline has now authorised the use of protective goggles and these are already been put to use on flights to and from Europe. On these flights, the airline is providing the goggles rather than expecting crew to source their own.
In the last few days, Hong Kong issued a ‘Red’ travel alert for Europe and urged its citizens to return to the territory as soon as possible. Cathay Pacific has temporarily upped capacity to destinations in both Europe and the United States to repatriate anyone who wants to get home.
The union is also pushing for a change in the in-flight service routine to reduce interaction with passengers and has asked for at least one lavatory to be blocked off for the exclusive use of crew.
Last week, the first member of Cathay Pacific cabin crew to have COVID-19 was identified. The crew member had travelled back from Madrid when they developed symptoms but it’s believed they may have caught the virus during a holiday in Egypt.
Despite its proximity and close links to mainland China, the territory has so far recorded 181 cases of the Coronavirus. Sadly, there have been four deaths.
All returning citizens will be expected to undergo a 14-day quarantine on their arrival to Hong Kong to prevent the virus from spreading further.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.