Aeroflot To Use Different Terminal For Coronavirus-Impacted Destinations

In an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus, Aeroflot will segment flights serving the worst outbreak-infected regions. The Russian airline will be using Terminal F at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow to segment passengers who are more likely to transmit the virus. This strategy seems plausible but is it enough to prevent additional coronavirus cases?

Russian Aeroflot quarantines passengers at Terminal F in Sheremetyevo Airport. Photo: byeangel via Wikimedia Commons

Aeroflot segments its passengers

Yesterday on 28 February, Aeroflot announced a new strategy to mitigate the transmission of coronavirus. The airline posted a press release in which it said that flights arriving to and from Iran and South Korea will transfer to Terminal F at Sheremetyevo Airport starting tomorrow – 1 March. Flights arriving in Russia from Italy will also land at Terminal F in Sheremetyevo.

This system is designed to manage the spread of the coronavirus. Currently, Aeroflot is using Terminal F at Sheremetyevo to manage passengers arriving and traveling to China. Whilst Aeroflot has reduced its flight capacity on routes to China citing a “decrease in demand”, it still flies some routes. In fact, it’s the only commercial airline in Russia that is still making the connection between the two countries.

Sheremetyevo Airport screening
Passengers undergo screening after arriving from at-risk countries. Photo: Getty Images

Now travelers to and from China will be joined at Terminal F by passengers looking to travel to South Korea and Iran as well as Italy. South Korea contains the highest number of coronavirus cases outside of China. Today (Saturday 29 February) recorded over 800 cases alone. The country currently has diagnosed 3,150 confirmed cases.

In Iran, there have been significantly fewer cases; some 388 known diagnoses mainly in the capital of Tehran. However, Aeroflot is keen for travelers to and from Iran to undergo management at Terminal F. That’s likely because a traveler from Iran boarded an Aeroflot flight to China sparking 63 passengers on the flight to be quarantined in Shanghai.

In addition, the virus has earmarked Italy as the European epicenter for Coronavirus.

What’s happening at Terminal F?

When it comes to the details of Aeroflot’s operation at Terminal F, the airline has been rather quiet. However, we can glean that Terminal F has heightened quarantine measures in place. As the terminal is now used by Aeroflot to manage the spread of the coronavirus, passengers will go through a lot more health checks before boarding and after disembarking. Images have emerged of staff members in full protective gear awaiting passengers at the terminal.

Sheremetyevo Airport Coronavirus
Fully-clad staff provide health checks for passengers at risk. Photo: Getty Images

Sheremetyevo International Airport is also currently dealing with Chinese traffic from Hainan Airlines. The airport is also quarantining Hainan Airlines passengers in Terminal F at the airport.

The airport also claims on Twitter that it is attempting to control the spread of the virus by removing physical staff members at departures and, instead, dealing with travelers via speakerphone.

Aeroflot’s measures at Terminal F all sound very promising but will they work?

Is Terminal F quarantining a good idea?

Of course, since Aeroflot still serves China  it may not completely avoid contact with the coronavirus. However, if the airline insists on continuing operations in China, quarantining does sound like the best possible solution.

Terminal F Sheremetyevo Airport
Is Terminal F quarantine the best solution? Photo: Getty Images

In effect, if passengers are correctly screened within Terminal F, then they can be identified before going into contact with other passengers in other terminals. The layout in Sheremetyevo Airport means that Terminal D, E, and F are all linked by a passenger walkway but are all located away from Terminals A, B, and C.

However, it’s that passenger walkway connection that could create a problem. Since coronavirus is relatively new, scientists are still working to find out how long it lingers and, therefore, just how transmittable it is.

Opposition to the strategy

In addition to these concerns, there has been debate in Russia as to whether Aeroflot’s quarantine at Terminal F is actually the best solution. S7 Airlines has been outspoken in this matter. The airline believes that the Moscow-based operation is not enough. Quarantining also needs to happen in Siberia to further mitigate the spread of the virus. According to Russian Aviation Insider, the airline said:

“If you look at the sales statistics through the third week of February, you’ll see that the number of passengers [who reserved tickets from China] to Siberia is twice the number of those traveling to Moscow. So, if any passenger turns out to be infected, the number of contacts with connections in Moscow will double.”

Despite opposition, there seems to be no suggestion that Aeroflot with stop its Chinese, Iranian, South Korean or Italian services. With a lack of carriers now servicing these regions, the general consensus is that Aeroflot will profit from passengers who still want to travel to these countries.

Do you think the Terminal F quarantine will be enough? Have your say in the comments.