Swine Flu Outbreak Update: 08-May-09: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways stated (07-May-09) it continues to adopt precautionary measures over influenza outbreak concerns.

Nine days ago, the airline implemented several precautionary measures as the carrier's management follows closely the developing situation, in particular with regards to its scheduled flights from the USA, and passengers originating from the neighbouring feeder market of Mexico, where the spread of the virus has been most prominent.
Since 27-Apr-09, masks were available on selected flights for passengers and crew.
Effective 05-May-09, as we continue to monitor the situation, Qatar Airways has upgraded measures across its global network.
Face masks are available on all Qatar Airways aircraft operating on all routes to and from Doha in the interests of the wellbeing on those onboard, and for use if required. Our cabin crew are fully trained to deal with any suspected influenza cases and will act in line with internal procedures.
All customer contact staff at Doha International Airport have been issued with masks to use if required, in accordance with guidelines issued by the airline and the State of Qatar's Ministry of Health.
The airline has been taking additional mandatory measures for all 1,100 flight deck and 3,400 cabin crew in the company to be vaccinated against influenza to limit the risk of contamination to passengers and staff. The flu vaccine is a protective measure and only protects against a certain strain of flu, not swine flu, which is at the centre of the current health concerns.
The airline's speedy response to the health concerns has drawn praise from its passengers travelling onboard Qatar Airways' non-stop flights from New York, Washington DC and Houston to Doha.
Mr Usman Ahmed, travelling from New York to Dubai via Doha, thought it was a good idea to hand out the masks to those worried about the flu outbreak.
He said, 'It showed the concern the airline has for its passengers and its commitment to preventing the spread of the flu virus.'
Other travellers, including Mr Yogesh Thanvi, echoed his thoughts, suggesting that it was better to be on the safe side, particularly in respect of the long flights from the US to Doha, and the possibility of being exposed to the virus while travelling in a confined environment.
'The airline staff know what they are doing and I appreciate that they are trying to make my trip a safe journey,' said Thanvi.
Qatar Airways' Captain Oscar Polanco, who was operating the first flight from New York to Doha where masks were deployed, said, 'I was amazed and surprised at the fast reaction of Qatar Airways to what's happening.'
'The management took these quick, preventive measures, understanding the situation was likely to unfold and develop. I think it was a measured reaction on the company's part, and our passengers have been extremely calm about the whole situation,' he added.
Speaking during a press conference at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai today, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said:
'The health and wellbeing of all our passengers and employees is of paramount importance and Qatar Airways in no way compromises the safety of any individual.'
'Passengers should be reassured that modern aircraft have very advanced air filtration systems which ensure a high level of air quality despite the confined environment they are travelling in,' he added.
Qatar Airways has been working closely with local health authorities in Qatar and monitoring developments with international health organisations and governments around the world in order to be able to take the most appropriate measures.
If prior to boarding across Qatar Airways' network or during transit in Doha, passengers are identified as having flu or fever-like symptoms, they will be referred to a local medical centre to determine their suitability to travel.
The airline's decision has been taken to control the potential transmission of the virus to fellow passengers and crew onboard.
Qatar Airways strongly recommends that in the best interests of fellow travellers, passengers refer to information available through international health authorities, including the World Health Organisation, at www.who.int prior to travelling. In addition, individual countries are issuing their own travel advisories.
Qatar Airways Head of Medical Services Dr Soha Al Bayat added, 'Qatar Airways has taken a conscious stance to implement these measures. In light of the current situation, it is vital for people to observe strict personal hygiene controls to protect themselves and those around them.'
'If passengers develop fever or flu-like symptoms, they are advised to consult their doctor or medical practitioner straightaway. Symptoms of this A (H1N1) particular strain of flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills and fatigue,' she said.
'Our flight crew and ground staff have been fully briefed about swine flu, how to identify possible cases and of appropriate measures that need to be taken to contain the situation,' she added.
Health authorities around the world have advised that in the interests of personal hygiene, people should cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing; avoid touching their eyes and nose in case the virus has been transmitted, and frequently wash their hands.