Air France crews petition to stop flights to ebola-affected countries
More than 700 Air France staff have signed a petition asking the airline to stop flights to the West African countries hit hard by Ebola. Air France flies to Conakry in Guinea and Freetown in Sierra Leone.
Despite assurances from world-health officials that Ebola's spread by air travel is unlikely, British Airways and Emirates have already cancelled routes as a precaution. At least 1,145 people have died in the worst outbreak of Ebola on record.
Some crew have even refused to board flights to the countries, a spokesperson for Air France told Agence France-Presse. Although some scheduled crew have refused assignments, however, the flights have continued.
"In the end, all these flights left with the usual number of crew, and with teams that had the usual level of qualifications, according to the regulations," the spokesperson said.
The International Air Transport Association has asked airlines to continue service to the affected countries, referring to World Health Organization guidelines that outline how the disease spreads.
"The risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease during air travel is low. Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not spread by breathing air from an infected person," IATA said in a statement.
"The risk of getting infected on an aircraft is also small, as sick persons usually feel so unwell that they cannot travel, and infection requires direct contact with the body fluids of the infected person."
Air France has taken precautions to prevent contagion, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.
Working with health authorities, the airline has updated crews on best practices, and provided protective kits with gloves, face masks and alcohol for disinfecting on its airplanes. Air France also checks the temperature of passengers at the time of boarding in Conakry and Freetown.
But petitioners want more.
"We know that people with the virus can take up to three weeks to develop symptoms," Patrick Henry-Haye, who began the petition, told Le Figaro.