With new coronavirus cases rising in China and abroad as well, Korean Air is the latest airline to announce a range of measures in response.
Korean Air has formed an emergency response team to deal with the spread of the coronavirus and prevent infection of its departments such as the airport service office, flight operations, cabin crew operations, maintenance, aeromedical centre and the operations control division.
Korean Air has suspended its flights between Incheon and Wuhan from until 27 March, and will suspend or reduce the frequency of some of its other routes to China. It acknowledges this corresponds to a fall in demand for these services.
Korean Air has strengthened the level of cabin disinfection since 30 January for planes that have flown on routes to China. The airline sterilises planes arriving from large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao and Guangzhou upon arrival at Incheon.
Korean Air also announced some changes to in-flight services to minimise the risk of onboard infection. From 31 January disposable cutlery will be used to serve in-flight meals on all China routes, which will then be disposed of in sealed plastic bags to prevent cross infection.
Comfort items such as blankets and pillows will not be provided, and in-flight meals for return flights from Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei and Shanghai, which are usually supplied locally, will be loaded at the time of departure from Incheon.
For the safety of its crew members, Korean Air will temporarily suspend the crew’s layover schedule pattern on Kunming and Guangzhou routes. Instead, extra crew members will be assigned to cover the inbound flight, while those working on the outbound flight can rest on the return flight.
Korean Air flight attendants are recommended to wear masks and plastic gloves on all routes, and the airline is loading each flight with adequate equipment in preparation for any possible infection onboard: masks for passengers seated near suspicious patients and hazmat suits for flight attendants who may need to take care of onboard patients.
Additionally, masks and hand sanitisers are prepared at airports and sales offices where employees provide face-to-face services. The airline will also provide sanitary items such as masks and hand sanitisers to domestic and global offices, including China, that are facing a huge mask shortage.
American Airlines, Air Canada, Air Asia, Air India, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Finnair have all suspended some flights between China and their respective countries. As of 30 January, at least 16 airlines had cancelled flights to China. British Airways, Lion Air and Seoul Air have suspended all their flights to China.