Union Says 100 American Airlines Flight Attendants Have Coronavirus

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) has found that 100 American Airlines’ flight attendants have tested positive for COVID-19, highlighting the need for protective gear, and the airline has agreed to begin providing masks to flight attendants who want them.

According to the APFA, the union has been asking for protective gear since January.

“We have consistently advocated for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all of our flight attendants to be available on every aircraft, for social distancing between passengers and crew jump seats, for thermal scanning in the airports, and to receive immediate notification of flight attendants who have tested positive for the virus,” Hedrick told CNN. “Flight attendants are aviation’s first responders, who are transporting medical personnel and supplies into COVID-19 hotspots, and they need to be treated and protected as such.”

The airline responded that they are taking safety precautions and following guidelines.

“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority,” said a statement from American Airlines. “We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials and are coordinating with them on any required health and safety-related measures. We continue to look at all ways we can care— and protect—our team during this stressful time.”

While the PPE will help frontline personnel, many will not be flying. The union noted that just one in four flight attendants will be flying in the coming months due to the impact on airlines from the coronavirus outbreak.

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Boeing Extends Suspension of Production at Seattle-Area Facility

Boeing officials announced Sunday the temporary shutdown of its Seattle-area airplane production would continue indefinitely due to the continued spread of the coronavirus.

According to KIRO7.com, Boeing sent an email to employees in Washington announcing the extension of a previously announced two-week shutdown. Instead of opening Wednesday, the facility would be closed to production until further notice.

The decision impacts around 30,000 of the company’s 70,000 employees in the state.

“The health and safety of our employees, their families and our communities is our shared priority,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said in a statement. “We will take this time to continue to listen to our incredible team, and assess applicable government direction, the spread of the coronavirus in the community, and the reliability of our suppliers to ensure we are ready for a safe and orderly return to operations.”

Boeing officials told The Seattle Times employees impacted by the shutdown received their regular salaries during the two-week shutdown, but would have to use vacation or sick leave for the remainder of the temporary closure.

A spokesperson for the airplane manufacturer said Friday there were 133 confirmed cases of coronavirus among employees, with 95 of them being workers in Washington. Boeing said the shutdown was based on the health and safety of its employees.

In March, Boeing announced CEO Dave Calhoun and Board Chairman Larry Kellner would forgo all pay until the end of 2020. The company also announced it would suspend its dividend and extend its pause of any share repurchasing until further notice.

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Airline Testing Airport Kiosks to Identify Travelers With Medical Conditions

Etihad Airways is partnering with Australia-based Elenium Automation to trial new self-service devices at airports used to identify travelers with medical conditions.

The airline said that the new technology—which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of anyone using an airport touchpoint like a check-in kiosk, bag drop facility or a security gate—could potentially spot the early stages of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Elenium system is designed to automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. At that point, the system will divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on-site for further assessment.

The initial trial is scheduled to take place at Abu Dhabi International Airport from late-April through May with a range of volunteers. The new technology will eventually be tested on outbound passengers when flights resume.

“This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions. It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms, so that they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations,” said Jorg Oppermann, Etihad Airways Vice President Hub and Midfield Operations, in a statement.

“It has long been the case that aircraft, with their highly sophisticated air-recycling systems and standards of hygiene, are not the transmission vehicle for illnesses. We are testing this technology because we believe it will not only help in the current COVID-19 outbreak but also into the future, with assessing a passenger’s suitability to travel and thus minimizing disruptions.”

“The system would screen every individual, including multiple people on the same booking. The technology can also be retrofitted into any airport kiosk or bag drop or installed as a desktop system at a passenger processing point such as an immigration desk,” added Aaron Hornlimann, CEO and Co-Founder of Elenium Automation. “We believe the introduction of touchless self-service and automated health screening will encourage passengers to return to travel sooner.”

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TSA Confirms First Employee Death Related to Coronavirus

The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that a federal employee working at a New Jersey airport died from complications associated with coronavirus, marking the agency’s first COVID-19-related death.

According to the official TSA website, 39-year-old Francis “Frank” Boccabella III died on April 2 after 16 years with the organization. He was an Explosive Detection Canine Handler at Newark Liberty International Airport.

A TSA spokesperson sent heartfelt condolences to Boccabella’s wife, extended family, colleagues and friends. “His passing represents a personal loss to all of us who knew him and cherished both his friendship and professionalism,” the statement read.

Boccabella joined the TSA in 2004 at John F. Kennedy International Airport before becoming a Compliance Inspector at the Newark airport and finally settling into his role as an Explosive Detection Canine Handler.

Boccabella worked with a six-year-old German Short-haired Pointer named Bullet to screen hundreds of thousands of passengers, keeping them and the transportation network safe.

In recent weeks, the TSA received updated protocols regarding the spread of coronavirus, including the decision to allow employees to wear N95 masks and eye protection, as well as mandatory nitrile gloves.

The TSA also recently announced a new website to provide travelers with updated airport regulations and keep track of confirmed cases of coronavirus among employees.

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American Airlines Reduces Summer Schedule Again

American Airlines announced Thursday it would be forced to cut capacity again this summer as record-low customer demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak continues to devastate the aviation industry.

The airline revealed it would suspend more than 60 percent of international capacity for the peak summer travel season when compared to the same period last year and delay the launch of new routes until 2021.

The new flights impacted include service between Philadelphia and Casablanca, Chicago and Krakow, and Seattle and Bangalore. In total, 25 summer seasonal flights will be suspended until summer 2021.

The reduced summer schedule will be reflected on American’s official website on April 5.

In addition, the carrier announced several routes scheduled to debut in October would now debut winter 2021, while several flights originally slated to resume in early October would return at the end of the month.

Airlines around the world have been impacted by the viral outbreak, as Southwest Airlines announced a new flight schedule earlier this week that would reduce flight activity by more than 40 percent, limiting the low-cost carrier to approximately 2,000 flights per day.

The aviation industry is also on high alert after United States President Donald Trump said he is reluctant to shut down airlines, but did acknowledge that asking carriers to cut back on flights between cities hardest hit by the coronavirus is an option.

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LATAM Reduces Operations by 95 Percent in April

In response to the travel bans, border closures and low demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LATAM Airlines Group S.A. will reduce operations by 95 percent for the month of April, as well as incorporate several changes.

For the next month, operations to several locations will be significantly reduced, while others will be suspended indefinitely.

Domestic flights in Brazil will continue flying to 39 destinations with reduced frequencies, connecting its São Paulo (Guarulhos and Congonhas), Brasília and Fortaleza hubs while domestic flights in Chile will reduce frequencies in 13 of its 16 destinations, temporarily suspending flights to Rapa Nui, Castro and Osorno.

Domestic operations of LATAM’s affiliates in Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador remain suspended due to national government restrictions.

Internationally, LATAM Airlines Group and LATAM Airlines Brazil will operate limited frequencies respectively between Santiago/SCL and São Paulo/GRU, from Santiago to Miami and Los Angeles, as well as from São Paulo to Miami and New York.

While the airline decreases commercial flight operations, its cargo affiliates have not been limited by border closures and travel restrictions. LATAM Airlines Group will be increasing the capacity of its cargo fleet by more than 15 percent in order to support imports, exports and the transport of vital goods in Latin America.

Additionally, this month marks the start of Roberto Alvo’s tenure as CEO of LATAM Airlines Group. After working with LATAM for 19 years, Alvo officially assumed the position on April 1. After stepping down, former CEO Enrique Cueto was named by the Board of Directors as a new LATAM Airlines Group board member.

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Hawaiian Airlines Gives Free Flights to Medical Personnel Fighting Coronavirus

Hawaiian Airlines announced it would provide free flights between islands to medical professionals battling the coronavirus outbreak.

As part of the airline’s partnership with leading healthcare providers in the state, Hawaiian will be sending personnel and equipment to impacted communities as the tourism industry grinds to a halt. Partner organizations include the Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated (HEPA), The Queen’s Health Systems and more.

The carrier also announced a new flight schedule designed to provide vital connectivity in April between the Hawaiian Islands as the state continues its 14-day self-quarantine requirement.

“This virus has presented an unprecedented test for all of us who call Hawai‘i home, and we are glad to be able to support the exceptional and important work our medical providers are carrying out across our islands each day to meet our state’s healthcare needs and help us overcome this challenge,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement.

Starting April 4, Hawaiian will be providing a total of 16 daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu on O‘ahu and Hilo and Kona on the Island of Hawaii, Kahului on Maui and Lihu‘e on Kaua‘i.

The airline will also keep serving both Moloka‘i and Lana‘i from Honolulu, but suspended service between Honolulu and Pago Pago for at least 30 days at the request of the American Samoan government.

Other airlines have been forced to make drastic changes, as officials from easyJet announced the decision to ground its entire fleet until further notice due to heavy travel restrictions and self-quarantines caused by the viral outbreak.

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WATCH: Stunning Cockpit Views as 787 Lands at Heathrow

So you’re a traveler – or a traveler at heart – itching to get back in the air.

Or maybe you’re a beloved ‘avgeek,’ the proud group of aviation aficionados who can tell you what kind of plane is in the air before you even see it overhead.

Either way, these stunning views of a 787 Dreamliner’s final 20 minutes in the air before landing at London’s Heathrow International Airport are incredible. And it gives you a real sense of what the pilot and co-pilot are doing to bring the plane to a safe landing.

Not to mention the unbelievable scenery of London below, including a look out the window to the left of a Singapore Airlines jet also about to land.

Check it out for yourself!

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Lion Air fire kills eight in the Philippines

A Tokyo-bound plane has crashed while taking off from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, capital of the Philippines.

Reportedly carrying medical supplies, the Philippines News Agency confirmed Lion Air flight RPC5880 caught fire on the runway.

All eight people on board – including six Filipinos, an American and a Canadian – are believed to have been killed.

The passengers included medical personnel, according to Red Cross spokesman Richard Gordon.

The civil aviation authority of the Philippines said the aircraft apparently encountered an unspecified “problem which resulted in a fire” as it rolled to take off.

The main runway at the airport was closed due to the accident.

Ninoy Aquino International had only minimal staff due to air travel restrictions that are part of a monthlong lockdown imposed by the government in the main northern Philippine region of Luzon, where Manila, the capital, lies, to fight the coronavirus outbreak, officials added.

Image: Rouelle Umali/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

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Coronavirus: Gulf airlines see 20% surge in demand for cargo services

While passenger flights have been grounded, cargo freighters are much in demand

Emirates SkyCargo transported close to half a million units of hand sanitisers in a single Boeing 777 freighter aircraft.

While passenger aircraft have been grounded since last week, airlines in the Gulf region have seen cargo services surge by as much as 20 percent year-on-year, as demand for essential goods, such as food and medical supplies, rises during the battle to combat the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s gone up so far by 20 percent approximately. But it’s expected also to increase even further as the cargo needs to be moved now more frequently,” Mohammed Al Husary, executive president and owner of UAS International Trip Support, a Dubai-based company which offers global support services to airlines, told Arabian Business.

“There’s big demand on medical supplies and essential supplies globally,” he said, adding that he expects demand for cargo to surge even more the longer the Covid-19 outbreak continues.

Keep airports open

Nicholas Cole, Riyadh-based CEO of airport operating company DAA International, said he had also seen this trend at airports it manages in the region.

“It is important to keep airports open. We are in conversations with a number of airlines across our group who still wish to continue flying with the bottom of the plane full,” he said.

“I’ll give you one example, some of the Covid-19 tests coming out of China can be flown in hours. If they were to travel by road, or by boat, it would take so much longer. So, I think it forces the world to think about what aviation does for a connectivity, not just for people, but also for, you know, goods that are time sensitive.

“I’d suggest, currently, that unfortunately we’ll have a lot of time sensitive goods, such as [Covid-19] tests and potential vaccines. These kinds of things will be incredibly time sensitive. So I suggest that airlines and airports, although they may be closed to passengers, many airports, ourselves included, are starting to think about what else can we do to keep the facilities moving and play our part in the recovery of Covid-19,” he added.

Additional freighter flights

Emirates SkyCargo, a division of the Dubai-based government airline, said it “has stepped up its commitment to” cargo supplies.

It is adding additional freighter flights to transport pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and equipment, perishables, and other raw materials to the UAE and other global destinations.

Between mid-January and mid-March 2020, it transported more than 225,000 tonnes of cargo in total out of which 55,000 tonnes were food items including fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood, and more than 13,000 tonnes were pharmaceutical cargo.

Nabil Sultan, Divisional Senior Vice President, Emirates SkyCargo, said: “By operating our freighter fleet at full capacity across six continents with a combination of scheduled and ad-hoc operations, we are making sure that we can maintain the flow of goods such as medical and pharmaceutical supplies, equipment and food items not just to Dubai and the UAE but to other global destinations where they are most needed across the world.”

As part of one chartered operation, Emirates SkyCargo transported close to half a million units of hand sanitisers in a single Boeing 777 freighter aircraft.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Cargo is also adding additional aircraft to cater to the surge in demand. The company said it was introducing a fleet of Boeing 787-10 aircraft to its pre-existing fleet of Boeing 777 freighters. The fleet will operate 34 weekly flights, initially serving 10 markets.

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