Flight Crews In Taiwan Will Wear Protective Gear

Filed Under: Travel

Taiwan has just taken flight crew protection to a whole new level…

Airlines have slowly rolled out protections for crews

Over the past couple of months we’ve seen airlines slowly roll out protections for crews. The reality is that flight attendants are at among the highest risk of getting COVID-19 (in terms of professions), given their working conditions.

In January we saw some airlines in Asia start to allow crews to wear masks on flights, and since then we’ve seen more protection added. Masks went from voluntary to mandatory pretty quickly, though in the US airlines have been slow to adapt — for example, American only let frontline employees start wearing masks as of last week.

We’ve also now seen many airlines start to limit onboard service to minimize interaction between passengers and crews.

China Airlines flight attendants wearing masks

Taiwan rolls out new protective gear for crews

Per Focus Taiwan, as of April 1, 2020, flight crews in Taiwan will be provided with protective gear, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Airline crews will have to wear surgical masks, goggles, protective clothing, and gloves, which is the same protection given to medical personnel.

The CECC also intends to come up with guidelines for passengers, to reduce the risk of them spreading COVID-19. As it stands, airline passengers can bring their own protective gear, though it’s expected that passengers will be required to take additional precautions.

With Taiwan’s current policy, passengers arriving from abroad have to home quarantine for 14 days. Meanwhile for flight crews, those arriving from long haul destinations have to home quarantine for five days (while for cargo flights the limit is three days).

Taiwan doesn’t have much traffic at the moment

China Airlines and EVA Air continue to operate flights, though traffic is very limited:

  • Taiwan isn’t allowing any passengers to transit through Taipei
  • Foreigners aren’t allowed to enter, with the exception of those who are residence permit holders

In other words, at this point airlines in Taiwan are primarily operating skeleton schedules to bring people home.

EVA Air is operating a very limited schedule at this point

Bottom line

We’ve seen an increasing number of cases of flight attendants getting coronavirus, and it sure seems to me like most airlines aren’t doing enough to protect staff. It was just last week that American let flight attendants start wearing masks, while now in Taiwan they’re going to require flight crews to wear medical gear. This seems like a smart move to me.

  1. @Ben
    On Thursday I took the last LY flight to YYZ (where I currently live, I was waiting to be able to go back home). The crew was all wearing masks and those Tyvek suits. Service was limited to 2 bottles of water per passenger and a tray of food that were distributed right after take off (0100). No breakfast and of course no liquor or anything like that. However, strangely enough, about an hour before landing they rolled out the duty free carts!!!

  2. I was scrambling to go home too and flew with Air China before they drastically reduce international schedule. The crew were all wearing racal suits during the entire flight. In flight services were only limited to bottle waters and pre-packaged food like sandwiches, breads, chocolates and other snack items.

    On arrival, the plane was met by quarantine personnel and passengers with obvious symptoms were brought out of the plane immediately and into the ambulance waiting by the plane. Other passengers were bussed to terminal and interviewed individually for recent travel history, personal health condition, etc.. I was flagged red and escorted through a designated exit onto the apron and then onto an ambulance immediately and sent to a hospital, where I received nucleic tests, CT scans and blood tests. I was assigned a negative-pressured room for isolation and waiting for my nucleic test result.

  3. This is just pointless unless the crews are also trained in donning and doffing, ensuring no contact with their face once masks are on, changing equipment between passengers, etc. Given this is highly unlikely all they are going is removing equipment from the supply chain that is needed on hospitals. Reducing service to reduce passenger interaction and regular handwashing will be much more beneficial than these measures.

  4. Well, well. As a junior doctor and flight attendant there is a few issues with air crews wearing these protective clothing pieces. In short: This is a publicity stunt, both for prospective passengers and the crews alike.

    (The following is the boring chain of thoughts that leads my to my conclusion)

    (1) I’m sure these gowns would be of better use in hospitals
    (2) If this is a measure to protect passengers from the crew’s microbes you put on the gown followed by the gloves (you protect your gloves from being contaminated by using the gown as a “temporary glove”); in the picture you can see the opposite was done
    (3) If the gowns are meant to protect the crew from the passengers germs (which are now on the outside of the gown/gloves); the crew will have to take the gloves off first and will get their now exposed hands contaminated when removing the gown. Might as well have not worn a gown.

  5. It’s crazy that in the US we can’t even get that equipment for doctors and other countries who are better prepared can afford to offer them to many front-line workers outside of hospital settings.

  6. I think we need to remember that many countries do not have a shortage of medical supplies and most citizens are already wearing masks. If there wasn’t a shortage in the US I’m sure government guidelines would be for everyone to wear a mask in public. It’s well documented that masks are effective in preventing the spread of disease, it wasn’t until there was a shortage that the message changed.

  7. Taiwan has bee doing an excellent job in preventing the spread of the dwadly virus. They only have a few patients admitted to the Hp, so no shortage of PPE supplies.

    Hp in US have no masks, Hazmut suits, and gowns. Nurses in NY are wearing garbage bags because Hp don’t provide them with gowns. We currently live in a third world country.

  8. Mainland Chinese Airlines have been doing this for a long time – I guess it just wasn’t important enough for a news conference. That said kudos to Taiwan for catching up, I think the US should now follow suit and really protect the frontline worker, at least starting from allowing them to wear masks.

  9. Amusing to see responses here from American and Chinese armchair virologists lecture Taiwan about its containment measures. Given the extraordinary suppression of the epidemic versus the runaway catastrophes in the US and China, I know who *I* would have more faith in.

  10. Taiwan, unlike many other countries, saw what was happening in China and started ramping up manufacturing of medical PPE back in Jan/feb along with testing and isolating like crazy. It’s a testament to how well that worked that they have enough PPE to supply not just flight attendants but the general population. Contrast that with countries that looked at what was happening in China in jan/feb and did nothing.

  11. Granted, Taiwan has much fewer patients compared with the US at this point, but remember, it was predicted to be the most severely impacted country other than China.

    Taiwan is not short of mask supply now because the Taiwanese government acted as fa st as possible. Back in January, the government started a collaborative efforts with the local businesses to put together 60+ surgical masks production lines, and banned the export of masks to meet local demands. As of late March, the production has reached the capacity of making 10M+ masks per day. We’re doing the same thing for surgical gowns as well.

  12. The first people after first responders and medical personnel at most high risk to contract the virus are flight crews. They can then spread it to untold passengers without even knowing they have it. Taiwan is way ahead of the world when it comes to this pandemic and they’ve been preparing for it since SARS. If airlines want to stay open for business, they have to mitigate the spread as much as humanly possible since they are able to transport the virus literally anywhere. This is how the virus became such a global pandemic and why even rural/isolated America won’t be spared. Good for Taiwan.

  13. I am just feeling sad at how the new face of travel will look….really wonder if things will get back to as it was before or we just have to accept this new era of travel…

  14. @SK Things won’t be the same. Look at what 9/11 did to airport security, so I guess we’ll have to just accept it. (Not to mention expect lots of airlines to go out of business)

  15. @Alan
    Taiwan is never a part of the WHO, so the guideline that WHO issues is never the top guidance to the Taiwanese government. I think they build up their own system by modifying many health care system around the world, so end up with this protection guideline to Taiwanese people I think.

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