South African Airways (SAA) has stated that the health and safety measures it has taken to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus are in line with international standards set out by the World Health Organisation.
“SAA follows procedures, advice and guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organisation, International Air Transport Association (IATA), Civil Aviation Authorities as well as the airports and customs authorities’ directives to ensure the safety of its customers,” the airline said.
The airline added that passengers are welcome to travel with antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.
SAA has intensified its disinfectant and cleaning measures due to the increasing number of South African coronavirus cases.
SAA said it has taken a number of steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus on its aircraft, as outlined below:
- To clean the aircraft, SAA uses disinfectants which have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are effective against the COVID-19 (coronavirus).
- The cleaning protocols it uses to clean aircraft have been intensified and focus, among other things, on frequent touchpoints such as handles, seatbelt buckles, tray tables and armrests.
- Hard surfaces such as lavatories, galley units and window shades are also thoroughly cleaned with multi-purpose cleaners.
- The Airbus fleet is equipped with state-of-the-art, High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that sift out and remove dust, bacteria, allergens and other unhygienic particles.
- SAA crew have been trained to handle situations involving communicable diseases or any other medical emergencies onboard and they work closely with ground and inflight expert medical assistance.
- All aircraft are loaded with bio-hazardous spill kits in case of a contamination event (or to handle a contamination event) and cleaning materials.
SAA said that its crew uses officially-approved and industry-recognised disinfectants on all flights, and its flight attendants use gloves that are sanctioned by the food industry.
“The airline uses sanitation procedures for all domestic, regional, and international flights,” SAA said.
Dealing with sick passengers
SAA also said that it had measures in place to deal with passengers who may have contracted COVID-19.
“Should a passenger show any respiratory symptoms on board, i.e. coughing, sneezing, our crew will provide a surgical mask to the passenger to prevent transmission of micro-organisms,” SAA said.
“Should health authorities inform the airline that a person who travelled with SAA exhibited coronavirus symptoms, the aircraft will be taken out of service and put through a decontamination process.”
The airline said that while it takes all the necessary steps to ensure that its customers enjoy their flight, it also advised them to take the following precautions:
- Wash hands with soap often
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser after touching any surface
- Avoid touching eyes, face and nose
- Avoid contact with coughing passengers by whatever means possible
- Stay home if sick
“We thank customers for the support by continuing to place their trust in South African Airways with their travel plans,” SAA said.
Bad news for SAA and coronavirus
The situation for both SAA and those worried about the coronavirus pandemic are worsening in South Africa, with the number infected locals increasing by the day.
As of 11 March 2020, 13 people were infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus – five in Gauteng, seven in KwaZulu-Natal, and one in the Western Cape.
South African Airways faces increased financial pressure due to the coronavirus’s impact on flights, and it is currently facing mass retrenchments.
The airline’s business rescue practitioners recently announced they would begin Section 189 consultations with employees, with up to 4,700 staff affected.
This forms part of the plan to restructure SAA and turnaround the struggling airline’s dire financial position.