Today, Finnair updated its website to reflect recent changes made to its health and safety policies – particularly in regards to handling the risk and threat of coronavirus. This includes plexiglass guards put up between airport staff and passengers at check-in as well as the distribution of cleaning wipes onboard. There will also be a requirement for all travelers to wear face masks while on the plane. But the most interesting part of these new policies indicates that anyone strongly suspected of having the coronavirus will have a toilet reserved for them.
Handling a suspected case onboard
The following is what the airline has to say regarding a suspected case during the flight (translated from Finnish to English):
“If there is a strong suspicion of a coronavirus infection during a flight, we try to isolate the symptomatic person and ask them to wear a surgical face shield. Only one cabin crew member is in contact with a suspect, and if possible, one toilet is reserved for the symptomatic person.”
Therefore, according to this new policy, all other passengers will lose the use of one lavatory if there is a suspected coronavirus case during the flight.
Is this practical?
At this point, this may be a straightforward procedure to implement. With flights operating at far lower-than-normal capacity, there is a better chance of arranging an empty section of the cabin to isolate the person.
These low load-factors also mean that the passenger-to-lavatory ratio can be quite generous. Therefore, the loss of one lavatory may be tolerable. Of course, the airline states that the reservation of one toilet will only take place ‘if possible’ – which does lead us to ask what would happen if this was not possible.
We asked Finnair if they would have their cabin crew clean the lavatory thoroughly after the suspected case is finished using it. At the time of publication, we have yet to receive a response.
These policies would not at all be practical on a full or near-full flight. Staff may not be able to find a suitable space to isolate the individual. This may end up causing distress and uneasiness for passengers in the vicinity.
The likelihood of catching a suspected case onboard seems unlikely. This is because most would-be travelers experiencing symptoms are likely to cancel or reschedule their flights. Additionally, for those who are symptomatic and continue to the airport, airline staff have the right to deny boarding. In fact, the policy states that, at the departure gate, Finnair staff will examine customers. It says that “if a person with symptoms of a respiratory infection” is observed, they will not be allowed on board.
Finnair’s new list of policies will hopefully make passengers feel better about boarding an aircraft. The airline assures travelers that “the risk of the corona being transmitted from one passenger to another in an aircraft is very low, according to epidemiological studies.”
What do you think of the new toilet-reservation policy? Is it practical or unrealistic? Let us know in the comments!