Cathay Pacific cabin crew members are asking their employer for the right to wear masks in fear of contracting the new fast-spreading Coronavirus. The new virus is quickly spilling out of China, with carriers like Cathay Pacific most exposed.
What are the details?
Cathay Pacific is no stranger to viruses. The airline was right at the center of the SARS crisis many years ago and memories of quarantined infected passengers are still fresh in its collective mind. In fact, back in 2003, some 42 percent of all Cathay inbound and outbound flights had been canceled due to a drop in passenger traffic and the airline was considering grounding the entire fleet.
As such, cabin crew operating the airline know they will be on the front line when it comes to battling this new challenge and they want to be prepared.
So far the airline has allowed its staff to wear face masks on flights operating to and from China, but now the flight attendant union is fighting to have all staff on all flights have the right to wear a mask.
As Cathay Pacific has a large number of network throughput-passengers, it is very likely that if someone was infected with the virus they would head onwards to another destination and could infect others on a non-China flight.
What is the union arguing?
“All of them are worried about the risk they are taking every time they go to work,” the union said in a statement to South China Morning Post. “It is time for the company to properly address their concerns and allow cabin crew to wear masks on all flights.”
The union also stated that having their team members wear masks means that they will be able to protect their passengers.
“Such a measure does not only ease the anxiety of frontline employees but also sends a message to the public that Cathay Pacific is doing everything to ensure the safety of the passengers.”
The union’s statement concluded that it would be ‘too late and too painful’ to let the team members wear masks on all flights only after the first flight attendant gets infected.
Previously during a measles outbreak last year, Cathay Pacific allowed all flight crew to wear masks. So far the airline has only responded cautiously and has not elevated the new virus to the same level.
“As required by the Hong Kong health authorities, we are now distributing health declaration forms and will be making face masks and antiseptic wipes available at the boarding gate to passengers traveling from Wuhan to Hong Kong,” Cathay Pacific said in a statement to SCMP.
“Our frontline staff are reminded to maintain good personal and environmental hygiene, and to remain alert and vigilant while being on the lookout for passengers presenting with infectious disease symptoms.”
How dangerous is this new virus?
So far this new virus has killed six and spread from China to Thailand, Japan, and Taiwan. There are around 300 reported cases so far, but some experts believe that China is under-reporting the number and it could easily be in the thousands within the country.
With the Lunar Holiday soon approaching, the number of Chinese passengers will dramatically increase around the world as they travel to, from and throughout China. If the new virus is going to spread, it will be spreading then and the world should be prepared.
For those reading for the first time about this virus and are worried, fear not. Most of those who get the virus will only suffer symptoms associated with the common cold, such as a runny nose, headaches, coughing, sneezing. However, there is a chance that the virus could lead to pneumonia or bronchitis. If you feel like you have flu-like symptoms and you recently traveled internationally, then go see a doctor.
Simple Flying is an aviation blog and not a professional medical service. Any medical statements we published is based on the writer’s common sense at best and is no way an official medical recommendation nor the official advice of Simple Flying. If you are feeling unwell, seek a professional.
What do you think? Should the flight attendants wear a mask? Let us know in the comments.