How the Aviation Industry Is Dealing With the CoronaVirus


In recent weeks, an epidemic of a highly contagious virus, named CoronaVirus, developed in the area of Wuhan, China, and has already spread dramatically around the world. While the number of known cases has infected thousands in China already, the virus has spread to at least 18 other countries so far, with more cases expected.

Deaths are adding up with China as they confirm more than 550 fatalities among 28,000+ cases, plus expectations of rapid further growth.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a global health emergency, according to BBC, as they fear the virus will likely spread to many countries with inadequate infrastructure and limited health capabilities.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has ordered all citizens to stay away from China while declaring a Level 4 Emergency.

Besides the obvious human health and safety risks associated with a powerful epidemic, the outbreak of CoronaVirus is expected to have a significant impact on the world economy in the coming months.

U.S.companies doing business in China, such as McDonalds, Starbucks, Tesla, Walmart, and others have closed or restricted some or in some cases all of their business throughout China and as they wait for the threat to diminish.

How Will the U.S. Aviation Industry Be Affected?

As of Friday, January 31, Delta, American, and United Airlines have indefinitely announced the suspension of all flights to and from China.

International airlines that have also suspended or restricted flights to China are:

Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, JetStar Asia, Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Air India, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, Finnair, and Turkish Airlines.

The list is expected to proliferate.

How Does the Disease Spread?

The CoronaVirus is believed to spread through droplets spread by coughing, sneezing, and human contact. While commercial aircraft use filters that can collect the droplets, the potential for contact still remains.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has also upgraded passenger CoronaVirus screening to include 20 U.S. airports, ones that handle at least 90% of the passengers from China.

Screening at Airports in the United States

According to USA Today, the following U.S. airports are equipped for detection and quarantine, if needed, as of January 28, 2020:

  1. Los Angeles International
  2. San Francisco International
  3. Chicago O'Hare
  4. New York JFK
  5. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International
  6. Houston George Bush Intercontinental 
  7. Dallas-Fort Worth International
  8. San Diego International
  9. Seattle-Tacoma International
  10. Honolulu International
  11. Anchorage Ted Stevens International
  12. Minneapolis-St. Paul International
  13. Detroit Metropolitan
  14. Miami International
  15. Washington Dulles International
  16. Philadelphia International
  17. Newark Liberty International
  18. Boston Logan International
  19. El Paso International
  20. Puerto Rico's San Juan Airport

While the tide of travelers arriving from China is expected to diminish, fifteen more airports will begin the screening and quarantine process.

What is the Airport Screening Process?

The screening process begins with each passenger completing a questionnaire about where they have been, whether they have symptoms, and their contact information.

Next, a CDC staff member will take each passenger's temperature as they arrive with a special device that does not touch the passenger. The specialist will watch closely for coughing or other symptoms. If the passenger seems ill, a CDC staff member will examine the passenger further to determine if hospitalization is necessary.

Unfortunately, with the two cases reported in the United States, the individuals seemed normal when they arrived. If the passenger seems OK, however, they will receive information about symptoms and what to do if they should begin experiencing these as much as two weeks after arrival.

If You Plan to Fly

While the CoronaVirus has not heavily impacted U.S. travelers yet, specific precautionary measures should always be followed, according to USA Today:

  1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Handwashing is always a good idea since your hands are the most likely to pick up diseases.
  2. Use alcohol-based sanitizer frequently.
  3. Avoid putting your hands to your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  4. Improve ventilation by opening the vents above your seat.
  5. Carry sanitary wipes to clean your armrests and seat area before sitting.
  6. Bring a face mask and put it on if someone around you is sneezing or coughing.
  7. Request a seat change if the person near you is showing signs of illness.
  8. Keep track of the situation by consulting the Travelers Health Section of the CDC website.
  9. Please do not fly if you have symptoms.

At this point, the CDC and the U.S airlines are exercising extreme caution to eliminate the risk of commercial travel. Screenings may become more stringent if the epidemic continues to spread. 

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