Brussels, 19 March 2020 – The global aviation sector is experiencing an unprecedented crisis. Despite recommendations, many flights continue to operate at their maximum capacity and cabin crew are put at risk by carrying out their duties without protection or clear protocols. While EurECCA fully supports and applauds the European Commission’s coordinated response to the economic impact of COVID-19, it pleads for a coordinated response also on the protection of cabin crew in situations like this. Contagious diseases spread through travel and cabin crew are on the front line. Cabin crew are, like everybody else, entitled to a safe working environment. This calls for a comprehensive and coordinated protocol in cases of contagious diseases.
EurECCA has called for such a protocol for many years, when crew have had to face the risks of MERS, SARS and Ebola, but now with this current global pandemic, it clearer than ever that this is long overdue and much needed.
It is the World Health Organization (WHO) which dictates and publishes the procedures and protocols to follow in order to deal with contagious disease or pandemic. For the air sector there is the “Manual for the Management of Public Health Events in Air Transport” published in 2005, and subsequently updated in 2015 after the Ebola and Coronavirus in the Middle East. We understand that each contagion strain brings new challenges to the WHO, but seeing how quickly the Chinese government dealt with containing the virus, it is inadmissible for the WHO to delay updating the procedures and leave the adoption of measures and protocols to adjust to this new pandemic to the airlines.
It is also shameful that we have not seen a coordinated reaction of the EU governments to the threats of Corona, let alone coordinated measures to protect cabin crew from this highly contagious disease. All the measures taken at company level have led to very different levels of protection of cabin crew, ranging from timely and effective measures to next to nothing. This lack of coordinated response has also impacted the spread of the virus, putting both crew and passengers at unnecessary risk.
To effectively protect cabin crew the provision of masks, gloves and disinfectant gels is a basic and immediate necessity. In addition the food service needs to be modified to minimise contact, and screening of passengers before entering the plane should be introduced. Last but not least the cabin crew should have access to accurate and consistent information and support from health services on the disease at hand.
EurECCA calls on EU governments, the European Commission and the World Health Organization to take immediate and coordinated action to ensure the health and safety of cabin crew (and hence passengers) by forcing all companies in Europe to take the same adequate measures. SARS and Ebola were not the first, and the Coronavirus will not be the last outburst of a global contagious disease.
EurECCA represents, protects and develops the rights and needs of cabin crew all over Europe
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