Ebola fears hit airline industry

Ebola fears hit airline industry
By admin

News that a health care worker diagnosed with Ebola flew on a plane full of passengers has raised fear among airline investors that the scare over the virus could cause travellers to avoid flying.

Health officials have downplayed the possibility that any of the 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth could have become infected. The crew reported that the health care worker showed no symptoms during the flight.

Still, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the woman should not have flown on a commercial flight. Public-health officials were notifying the passengers.

In hoping to minimise any effect from Ebola, the airline industry is banking on assurances from health experts that the virus is spread only in the bodily fluids of someone already showing symptoms, and the presumption that someone that sick would not be physically able to travel.

Tony Tyler, CEO of the International Air Transport Association trade group, said Ebola was unlikely to reduce travel.

"You can't rule out that worry about this disease could cause a drop in traffic," he told reporters in San Diego. "My personal view is that is unlikely."

Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive, said that if the health care worker showed no symptoms on her Frontier flight, the decision to notify other passengers was made out of extra caution.

"But all that rational thought aside, it may cause some people to delay trips," he said.

Dr Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, said it was extremely unlikely that passengers could contract the disease because the health care worker was not vomiting or bleeding. But, he said, she should not have been on the flight because of the possibility that she had been exposed to Ebola and that she had a slightly elevated fever.

"By both of those criteria, she should not have been on that plane," Frieden said on a call with reporters.

Frontier said Flight 1143 was that particular plane's last flight on Monday night, and it was cleaned overnight according to CDC standards before being used Tuesday. It was grounded early Wednesday morning but was expected to be back in flight by day's end, said a spokesman for the airline.

Since the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in the US last month, attention has focused mostly on travellers from west Africa, the centre of the epidemic.

The first victim was a Liberian man who flew into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on a United Airlines flight from Washington's Dulles Airport. That case led US officials to expand health screening of passengers from West Africa who arrive at five major airports.

The latest health worker flew on a domestic flight from an airport where there is no screening for fever.

Concern about Ebola and slower growth in the global economy have hurt airlines stocks in recent weeks, offsetting the benefit to airlines from falling fuel prices.

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