AUTHOR’S NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic has progressed significantly since this story was published at the beginning of March and recommendations for travel have changed. Please consult more recent guidance from government authorities in informing your plans.
COVID-19: It’s here, it’s spreading, and it has people very worried. Public health authorities everywhere are hard at work containing this newest coronavirus strain, but the global ripple effects are already huge. And as with previous infectious disease outbreaks air travel is getting a lot of scrutiny as a potential means of disease spread across borders.
Feeling stressed? Here’s two adorable teddy bears on a flying hospital on an MD-11 – Photo: Orbis International
There’s no certainty about how far the disease will spread and how the aviation world will respond. But since some of you may have trips on the books or plans in the works, I wanted to take a brief moment to share some thoughts and resources. We discuss the basics of the virus, the level of risk if you fly during the epidemic, how to reduce your risk, whether you need to change your flight plans, and how coronavirus is impacting the aviation industry.
Before we dive into things, two big caveats:
- I’m a physician in my day job, but I’m NOT a trained public health professional or an infectious disease specialist. You should be paying closest attention to the updates and recommendations of trustworthy sources like the CDC and WHO.
- This story is evolving fast, so no guarantees that everything in here is up to date at the time you read this.
Read on for a quick take on the state of flying in the era of COVID-19, and what the epidemic may mean for you.
Aeroflot - Russian Airlines, Tupolev Tu-154M RA-85642 (cn 88A778)
Aeroflot, Russia’s largest carrier, is planning to rid its fleet of Tupolev TU-154 jets and acquiring additional Boeing and Airbus aircraft. It is planning to sell its remaining Tupolev jets, but the airline will still have six Russian built Illyushin Il-96’s to handle some international flights.
This is a big change from an airline that at one time had no Boeing or Airbus aircraft. Aeroflot is hoping to cater more to business travelers and TU-154’s are not known for their quality or silence.
Aeroflot also is looking to lower the cost of its routes. The airline’s chief executive, Vitaly Savelyev, explained the airline is currently losing money on 40% of its routes and looking to avoid thousands of layoffs over the next few years. Instead they are hoping the improved savings with fuel consumption, less maintenance costs, and increase traffic due to flying newer aircraft will allow the airline to avoid layoffs.
With the current global economy and the fact there are hundreds of other older Boeing and Airbus aircraft sitting in the desert, it will most likely be difficult for Aeroflot to find buyers for its 26 TU-154s. Personally it is a bit sad to not be able to see a TU-154 in Aeroflot livery, however it would be worth it to someday see a Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 in the airline’s livery. Image: osdu
Ooops! AA's Boeing 767-300 fell on its nose!
The American Airlines’ 767-300 had just finished undergoing maintenance at Fort Worth when “the nose gear retracted and put the aircraft on its nose,” says a spokesperson for AA.
No personnel were hurt and the plane has been being assessed for damage since the incident on July 15th. AA doesn’t expect any change in schedule due to the absence of this plane.
Terry Maxon with Dallas Morning News’ Airline Biz Blog has several additional photos. Source: Dallas Morning News
American Airlines Boeing 757. Photo from aa.com.
One of my least favorite things about air travel is waiting in line. Wait in line to check-in, wait in line for security, wait in line to get on the jetway, and wait in line to actually get on the plane. When the electronic kiosks first came out, I loved them. Most people didn’t understand them and didn’t use them, so there was normally no line at all. Now they are the norm, and I am back to waiting in line.
American Airlines is looking to add a new option. They are testing a pilot program (or more like “agent program” heh) over the next six weeks at Boston’s Logan International Airport where standing in line might have more options. Starting next week the airline will test 20 mobile devices called Your Assistance Delivered Anywhere (YADA). They will allow passengers to print boarding passes and make upgrades pretty much anywhere in the airport they can find a YADA representative. After the six week test, they hope to roll out the devices nationwide.
This seems like an interesting concept. If it works, not only could it alleviate lines, it could provide more of a one-on-one relationship with American and its customers.