The International Air Transport Association (IATA) emphasized that airlines are prepared for the heightened level of alert following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to move to Phase 5 of its pandemic preparedness plan for the H1N1 virus. IATA has worked with WHO to prepare guidance materials for front line staff at airlines, including cabin crew, maintenance workers, cleaners, passenger agents and cargo/baggage handlers.
“We are following the advice of the World Health Organization. Safety for passengers and crew is our top priority,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO. "People getting on planes should be reassured of two things. First, even under normal circumstances, airlines have equipment and measures in place to keep the cabin environment safe. For example modern aircraft have air filtration systems similar to those in hospitals, aircraft are regularly disinfected as part of normal cleaning routines and crew are trained in handling procedures for passengers who might become ill on board aircraft. Secondly, the years of planning for the possibility of avian influenza have prepared the industry to deal efficiently with the unfolding situation by following the recommendations of WHO.”
WHO advises there should be no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders. It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities.
“WHO is the global expert," said Bisignani. "WHO is not advising any travel restrictions. We hope that governments take decisions and coordinate their actions in line with WHO recommendations.”
Some governments, however, are adjusting immigration procedures, which can create confusion for travellers. IATA is collecting new requirements through the IATA Travel Centre. Passengers can get the most up-to-date information on travel documentation requirements at www.iatatravelcentre.com. More information on is available at www.iata.org/flu.