Singapore Airlines is piloting a novel ban: a full vaccination program for its cabin crew before they set foot in cockpits. On the airlines’ experience thus far, fewer than 10 percent of crew members have received the full vaccination against Ebola and two strains of the influenza A virus.
They are not the only airline to be weary of potentially horrific outbreaks. Boeing is already talking with governments about immunizing its crew, to shield them from communicable disease. The U.S. Navy is training guards to go about wearing safety equipment — including air and gas masks — to help defend against Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS.
In Europe, a new law requires airlines to give at least 48 hours’ notice before resuming flights to countries experiencing a flare-up of an infectious disease, like an Ebola outbreak. (Some other governments, like Kenya, have set a harder schedule for stopping flights.)
Singapore Airlines’ head of safety and training, George Harrison, said the carrier had taken “a very conservative approach,” until now. “That was not in our plans,” he told me.
Singapore Airlines announced its plans for the pilot program late Monday, and said it would begin with 50 attendants. The pilots have to first get their vaccinations, but the rest will get them later, if they are done with their preparations. All passengers will also be checked for infectious diseases, but Harrison didn’t say whether they could have their own vaccinations done in advance.