The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we view travel, and this applies equally to medical repatriation as it does to consider where you can safely take your next holiday or next business trip.
With health and safety onboard planes a crucial factor in determining when and how airlines recommence a normal service, will such concerns gain greater importance for medical repatriation as well? Will a patient being repatriated be satisfied when offered a repatriation flight with an airline that has implemented very few COVID-19 preventative measures?
Does the airline have an HEPA Filter? Do the cabins undergo EPA fogging? What social distancing measures are employed? Are these questions that patients and medical escorts alike will now be asking when booking future flights?
Meon Valley Travel has been a leading UK Repatriation provider for more than 30 years. We have used this wealth of experience to research which health and safety measures airlines do, and more crucially do not, provide on flights.
Our extensive analysis (current as of 10 June 2020) covered more than 60 airlines, as well as Eurostar rail services. The following questions were asked:
- Does the airline have HEPA filters on board their aircrafts?
What is a HEPA filter?
HEPA filters are a very high intensity system of fibres that filter contamination which can create an atmosphere in the cabin that could harm the passengers and crew. The device removes 99.7% of airborne particles
- Does it carry out EPA Fogging on its flights?
What is EPA Fogging?
EPA Fogging is a spraying of high-grade disinfectant on every surface of the cabin after a flight. The disinfectant is sprayed through a fog machine which coats the air and all surfaces in the cabin.
- Is social distancing protocol enforced?
- Are temperature checks carried out on passengers and crew pre flight?
- Are crews issued with personal protective equipment (PPE)?
- Are passengers required to wear facemasks?
- What inflight services are currently being provided?
Coming top of the list was Air Canada, which ticked all the boxes, including having HEPA Filter, EPA Fogging, PPE for crew, facemasks for passengers, cabin temperature checks and social distancing measures. The airline also provided bottled water and pre-packaged meals, to reduce the potential risk of infection to passengers.
The UK’s national carrier, British Airways, has both a HEPA Filter and EPA Fogging although there are no social distancing measures, nor any temperature checks for passenger or crew in place yet. Also, neither are crew issued with PPE nor passengers required to wear facemasks.
As for rail, passengers travelling on Eurostar should wear facemasks, although crew are not issued with PPE. Cabins are fitted with HEPA Filters and there is a social distancing protocol.