WITH the growing concerns over travelling during this time when the coronavirus has given rise to a global health crisis, imagine what flight crews must be facing.
Some pilots and flight attendants have to travel frequently then come home to their families and many have to continue flying to destinations in China, which is why Malaysia Airlines is doing all it can to ensure its crew remains safe and sound.
The Corporate Safety Department of Malaysia Airlines has conducted a risk assessment on the biological hazard of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) based on information obtained from the World Health Organisation, Health Ministry of Malaysia, International Civil Aviation Organisation Medical Office and International Air Transport Association Medical Section. The airlines’ operations and Workforce Health Protection are based on this risk assessment.
According to a spokesperson for Malaysia Airlines, circulars were issued to all flight crew when the outbreak began to escalate, spelling out how to identify individuals at risk and the preventive measures that one should immediately take. Obviously, when flight attendants are ill, they do not fly.
Crew members have been provided with face masks, gloves and hand sanitiser to be used when needed. While this may seem simple precautions, health experts say the best protections one can undertake are the same prescribed for avoiding flu, common cold and other viruses: washing hands frequently by using soap and water or hand sanitiser.
Being on an airplane doesn’t necessarily expose you to greater risk than other places where people usually congregate, including bus and train stations, cinemas and shopping centres.
Nonetheless Malaysia Airlines has been proactive in taking measures for protection of its crew. The airline has also reminded all its cabin crew members who have to perform CPR to use the bag-valve-mask and refrain from mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should in-flight medical emergency arises.
In addition to this, all crew member’s temperatures are taken before flights to China. In mid 2019, the airline already began a flu and meningitis programme for the crew, in conjunction with the haj period.
To enhance its efforts to allay the concerns of its crew, as well as to mitigate the spread of the disease, the airline has decided to operate turnaround flights into Shangai Pudong International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport so that its crew need not have nightstops at these destinations.
Malaysia Airlines also has two sets of crew flying to these destinations taking into account operations and fatigue countermeasures.
For its ground crew frontliners, the same risk assessment is carried out and maintained. Malaysia Airlines is also guided by aviation health procedures when interacting with a potentially infectious traveller.
The airline has placed control measures to reduce the risk of onboard disease transmission, which includes providing medical communicable disease kit in every aircraft to cater for ill passengers.
In an online advisory, the airlines advises its passengers to protect themselves and others by following travel recommendations including practising proper coughing and sneezing etiquette; to avoid individuals who are showing symptoms of fever, runny nose and cough; and to avoid identified wet markets and farms in the affected regions. Passengers are also advised to bring their own face mask to protect themselves.
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