Should airlines clean more or test more?
According to a survey, most Germans are afraid to fly because of Corona. Airlines try different measures to minimize the risk of infection. But there is a more powerful weapon against the virus.
Stand: 11:28 a.m. | Reading time: 4 minutes
NAccording to a survey by the opinion research institute Civey, 60 percent of Germans are afraid of being infected with Corona on a plane, and the airline umbrella organization IATA has found that six out of ten passengers worldwide consider the cabin air to be dangerous.
Against this background, it is reassuring to know that 1.2 billion people have been on scheduled flights since the beginning of the year and – according to a current IATA analysis – only 44 cases of infections were known on board. This results in a risk of infection of 1 in 27.3 million.
Not quite as reassuring, however, is the fact that the IATA relativizes its beautiful calculation in the same study: “Even if 90 percent of the infections had slipped through in this count, the number of infections would be one case per 2.7 million passengers.” IATA is therefore assuming a high number of undetected Covid 19 infected people on the plane.
Even those who have not flown 2.7 million times this year have every reason to feel uneasy. Especially since the airlines deal very differently with the statistical risk and fear of their passengers.
At TUIFly, for example, on a flight from Zakynthos in Greece to Cardiff in the UK at the end of August, the stewardesses apparently only warned very few of the 193 passengers to wear the mask correctly. Bad luck: 16 passengers were diagnosed with Corona after landing (although they were alleged to have been infected while on vacation).
What a passenger said about the flight in the British media did not make TUIfly look too good: “The plane was full of selfish Covidiotes and an incompetent crew who didn’t care.” Another passenger who was in the back of the Machine was sitting, then reported: She had not observed any disturbing scenes on board and, given the statement, felt as if she had been on another flight.
The airline says the crew fully complied with its obligations. So getting in and out in rows, dispensing disinfectant, checking compliance with the mask requirement. Nevertheless, the entire clientele had to be quarantined after landing, so the flight was not a confidence-building measure.
Measures taken by the airlines to protect against corona
Fortunately, there are more positive examples. British Airways, for example, gives each guest not only a disinfectant wipe, but also a sachet of hand gel – and the admonition not to take off the mask during the entire on-board service, but only when you take a sip or bite into the on-board snack. Conveniently, compliance with the announcement is also monitored.
At Swiss, on the other hand, the Chef de Cabine explains why you should leave your individual nozzle over the seat closed: to avoid air turbulence.
And at Lufthansa you get on and off neatly sorted by row of seats, on some flights you are even asked to please refrain from going to the on-board toilet in the interests of avoiding contact.
There is also more cleaning: All airlines insure that their cabins will be disinfected more frequently and more thoroughly than before Corona. Qatar Airways goes one step further and is the first airline in the world to send cleaning robots with extendable arms through the cabin that kill viruses and bacteria with UV light.
Rapid pre-flight tests for all passengers
But is cleaning and warning enough? United Airlines shows that more is possible. As the first airline in the world, it has been offering rapid corona tests for passengers since October 15.
If the test is negative, you can bypass the otherwise required quarantine at the travel destination. For the time being, the service will only be offered on the San Francisco – Hawaii route, but will be expanded in 2020.
The example should set an example: Systematic rapid tests for all flight passengers would be the most effective weapon against the virus and fear. You would suddenly bring back security and trust. All you have to do is ramp up the test capacities – and the ticket prices to fund these tests.
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