Flight Plan

How safe are airline crews and workers?

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on January 25, 2021

Good to go: Fresh air is being blown into aircraft cabins every three minutes   -  ISTOCK.COM

Carriers claim that all measures — including pre-flight tests, cabin sanitisation and fresh air inflow — have been put in place

Flying is safe, carriers have been promising travellers. But just how safe is it for their crew and other employees, who have to be in contact with scores of people almost every day? Every precaution is being taken, the airlines stress.

Ever since the spread of the novel coronavirus last year, Indian carriers have been lauded for the Herculean efforts that they have put in — first in getting back those stuck at the epicentre of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, and then in ferrying people across the world under the Vande Bharat Mission. Even now the airlines are operating across the country, as well as to some international destinations.

Besides Air India, which is flying to Australia, France and the US, Vistara has flights to Doha, Dhaka, Sharjah and Frankfurt. SpiceJet is flying to Muscat and Dhaka. In December last year, it connected Mumbai and Male, days after it started flights to Ras Al Khaimah. IndiGo is operating flights to Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. These international flights are being operated under the bubble arrangement that the Indian government has signed with various countries.

The carriers stress they are ensuring that their crew members are safe and protected from the virus. Fresh air is being blown into aircraft cabins every three minutes. The fresh air in the cabin flows from the top to the bottom, which is said to be the most effective way of ensuring clean air. The cabin air is also cleaned by High Efficiency Particulate Arrestors filters, which are said to capture 99.99 per cent of viruses and bacteria, including the novel coronavirus.

There is more. “We conduct extensive crew risk assessment for all flights, especially if any positive case is detected or reported,” a Vistara spokesperson said.

Vistara crew members go through multiple, frequent checks as per government guidelines. “The status of the Arogya Setu app is checked when they enter the terminal building. They also undergo thermal checks at the time of pre-flight reporting. Whenever a crew member reports sickness to the medical or operations team, a Covid-19 test is recommended and conducted,” the airline’s spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for IndiGo told BusinessLine that as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the airline conducts periodic safety risk assessments.

IndiGo also does Covid-19 testing for crew members in several conditions including all crew members exposed to infected passengers, whether domestic or international.

All crew members when flying to either states in India or international cities where there is a surge in cases are mandated to wear full personal protection equipment (PPE) and maintain social distancing during their layoffs. For international flights, Covid-19 testing for crew members is done as per the immigration requirements of the host country.

All crew members are made to go through a mandatory pre-flight Covid-19 testing.

“If any crew member tests positive, appropriate quarantine guidelines and contact tracing is followed meticulously as per directions of DGCA/Ministry of Health and MoCA,” the IndiGo spokesperson added. An individual risk assessment of each crew member is done on return from an international flight.

Airlines such as Vistara also provide insurance to their employees including cockpit and cabin crew which covers hospitalisation expenses. “Additionally, in order to extend further support, no leave is deducted from entitlements or salaries in case any employee tests positive for Covid-19,” the Vistara spokesperson said.

Published on January 24, 2021

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