Viruses: The Impact on Aviation

by | Feb 7, 2020 | Blog

Virus outbreaks can put a quick halt to regular aviation operations. Travel can spread what once was a local problem across the globe within hours. In this blog post I will exemplify the impacts of viruses on aviation.

After having dealt with SARS in the early 2000’s and after that with MERS, the most recent global health concern is the Coronavirus. This virus originated in China only a few weeks ago but is now affecting people worldwide. The most obvious impact of this virus and others in relation to aviation is the risk it poses to the health and wellbeing of those who work in the industry and those who benefit from the industry. According to CNN, the virus is active in more than 25 countries and over 400 people have died. The World Health Organization has noted that symptoms include fever, cough and breathing difficulties. If symptoms worsen, the virus can lead to organ failure and death.

The Coronavirus can spread from person to person like the common cold which means travel significantly increases risk for everyone because it allows the virus to develop outside of China. Not only this, travel also requires close contact to others which means the virus can be spread in airports, which see thousands of visitors each day, and in airplane cabins. Each person who becomes ill also becomes another seed to spread the problem.

This in turn has led to many countries imposing travel advisories or even strict travel restrictions. Some countries are advising their citizens to leave China while others are restricting travel back home or are requiring a quarantine. The issue with this is that most travel in our modern-day society occurs through air transportation. The global airline industry continues to see significant growth rates each year.

Many airlines have restricted flight schedules or are suspending air travel to and from mainland China altogether. KLM has suspended service to several Chinese cities until the 15th of March. Other airlines such as Air Canada and Qantas are following similar plans according to Bloomberg. These are only temporary solutions. Several airlines such as Delta are placing even longer holds on flights. According to a recently published press release by Delta, it is  “temporarily suspend[ing] all U.S. to China flying beginning Feb. 6 through April 30 due to ongoing concerns related to the Coronavirus.” This financially affects passengers, pilots and crew, corporations and eventually the global economy. In fact, some say this particular virus may pose even more risk to aviation than SARS did.

Cancelled flights and fear of travel have accounted for lost revenue for airlines. A decrease in tourism has affected local businesses in China and beyond. Our own installation crew was not able to travel to China, impacting both MPS and one of our valued customers. The items mentioned above are just a few examples of how the response to the Coronavirus has had significant impact on businesses worldwide. This is not to mention that many of the countries of the world rely on imports and exports from China which have seen a large decrease in recent weeks.

Due to the nature of the aviation industry, an abundance of caution has been taken during this outbreak. However, it is important to remember that illnesses like the normal flu are also very prevalent and possibly more dangerous because they do not spark any widespread cautions and disruptions.

Some simple ways to protect yourself and to keep the Coronavirus and other illnesses from spreading include:

  • Maintaining good personal hygiene
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Staying home when sick to prevent infecting others
  • Disinfecting surfaces often
  • Covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Limiting or if possible, avoiding contact with those who are sick
  • Applying common sense in assessing the need for travel
  • Following the advice of healthcare professionals

By applying these tips, you can best protect your family, friends, coworkers and strangers to keep all illnesses at bay, even the Coronavirus.

Stay healthy!