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Ebola scare: Flight attendants and pilots seek better protections

Frontier Airlines
A Frontier Airlines plane is parked at a gate at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Wednesday. Union leaders for flight attendants and pilots are calling for better communications and coordination to reduce the risk of further Ebola outbreaks.
(Michael Francis McElroy / Getty Images)

The United States’ largest unions for flight attendants and pilots on Thursday called on airlines and federal agencies to step up efforts to protect airline passengers and crew members from the potential spread of Ebola.

In separate statements, the Assn. of Flight Attendants and the Air Line Pilots Assn. asked that airlines fully train flight crews and janitorial staff on the proper ways to reduce the risks of spreading Ebola on commercial flights.

The association that represents more than 51,000 pilots at 30 airlines called for improved coordination among federal health and safety agencies.

The statements came one day after Frontier Airlines announced it has temporarily taken out of service a plane that carried a Dallas nurse who later tested positive for the deadly disease. The airline plans to take out the seat covers and carpeting around the seat used by the Ebola-stricken woman and replace the air filters.

The airline also put the crew of the plane on 21-day paid leave.

The flight attendants union that represents nearly 60,000 members from 19 airlines said they support the actions of Frontier to address the “concerns of frontline workers.”

“Frontier management’s actions should serve as a good template for the industry should other airlines encounter a similar accident,” said Sara Nelson, the union’s international president.

Meanwhile, the Ebola scare has sparked new interest in travel insurance policies that pay to treat and transport sick travelers or allow travelers to cancel a trip for no reason.

“We’ve had a lot of calls from travelers concerned about travel because of Ebola,” said Jim Grace, president and chief executive of InsureMyTrip, one of the world’s largest online travel insurance companies.

He said calls for such insurance are coming from travelers who are heading to Africa, Europe and other parts of the globe.

“Whenever there is this kind of uncertainty, people want to be in the driver’s seat,” Grace said.

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