What Ebola? Survey finds little impact on business travel

Frontier Airlines jetliners sit at gates at Denver International Airport in 2010. A nurse who tested positive for Ebola flew Frontier Airlines from Dallas to Cleveland and back.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

News that an Ebola patient flew on a commercial flight isn’t stopping business travelers from flying as usual, a survey found.

Nearly 80% of corporate travel managers questioned in the survey by the Global Business Travel Assn. said the Ebola outbreak had either no or not much impact on scheduled international travel, and more than 90% said the disease had no or not much impact on domestic travel.

The survey of 421 travel managers was taken online Oct. 13 through Oct. 15, about the time that news was breaking about a Dallas nurse who flew on two Frontier Airlines flights before testing positive for the deadly disease. Amber Vinson, 29, contracted Ebola while treating a Liberian man who died of the disease.


Vinson may have had symptoms when she flew from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday, Frontier’s chief executive David Siegel said in a memo to employees.

The Airbus A320 that carried Vinson was cleaned Monday night after her flight, but then continued on five additional flights Tuesday. Frontier has since flown the plane to Denver for additional cleaning, including the removal of seat covers and carpeting around Vinson’s seat. The crew of the plane has been put on 21-day paid leave.

“Although Ebola is top of mind across the country, it’s business as usual for most business travelers,” said Michael McCormick, executive director of the Global Business Travel Assn.

Still, 52% of travel managers who arrange travel to West Africa said they are restricting travel to that part of the world, the survey found.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines reported strong third-quarter profits Thursday, with airline executives saying they have seen no sign that the Ebola outbreak is keeping people from booking flights.

“We monitor it on a daily basis and we have not seen any changes in the booking trends,” said Paul Jacobson, chief financial officer for Delta.

Passenger revenue for the period was up 6% over the same period last year. The airline took in $357 million in profits, or 42 cents per share.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.