Jet aircraft have a range of up to 15,000km, enabling Airlines to operate non-stop flights lasting up to 17 hours cruising at 800 kilometers per hour, 40,000 feet above sea level.
The ability to connect distant continents and cities within hours makes aircraft a medium for transportation of vectors that transmit Chikungunya, Dengue, Filariasis, Malaria, Zika and Yellow fever to name but a few. As a preventive measure, aircraft must be disinsected to avoid spread of disease.
In order to ensure safety and comfort for extended periods in a confined environment at high speed and altitude, the aircraft cabin must be air-conditioned and pressurized.
How does disinsection, air-conditioning, pressurization and altitude affect passengers and crew?
Aviation regulations require that pre-flight safety briefings and demonstrations be conducted to explain interalia; conditions for use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs).
What are PEDs?
Any piece of lightweight electrically-powered equipment is a PED. This includes toys, cellular phones, e-readers, tablets, laptops, voice recorders, camcorders, MP-3 players, watches, shavers, hearing aids, pace makers and blood glucose meters.
Airlines are in a race for accolades. Punctuality, meals, luxury, on board entertainment, flight duration, Wi-Fi connectivity, crew composition, profitability and high safety ratings are achievements that will get any airline chest-thumping.
On 6th February 2017, the aviation industry was inundated with news of a claim to the longest flight. Qatar Airways flight QR 921 flew from Auckland to Doha in a time of 17 hours and 40 minutes.
Three weeks later, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Air India’s flights AI 173 (Delhi-San Francisco via the Pacific Ocean) and AI 174 (San Francisco-Delhi via the Atlantic Ocean), were operated by an all-female crew, making it the first time for an all-female crew to fly around the globe in a combined time of 26 hours.
A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health involving 3500 pilots, revealed that 12.6 per cent of the study group may have clinical depression, and 4.1 per cent reported having suicidal thoughts two weeks prior to the study.
These figures do not make for good reading and will give frequent flyers a reality check. Pilots are not superhuman. The brighter side is that these conditions are attributed to factors outside the cockpit and there are known medical procedures to manage and treat them.
Clinical depression has known symptoms and is visible. It can be noticed by the individual or other crew members in time before they get into the cockpit. Read More
An article I read recently highlighted the possibility of germs, bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens on aircraft, particularly in toilets, reservoir water tanks, on seats, seat belts, inflight entertainment touch screens, door handles, food trays and cabin air.
Aircraft transports thousands of passengers to various destinations on a daily basis. The potential for disease causing pathogens on an aircraft rises with every boarding pass issued, increasing the possibility of contracting typhoid, cholera, influenza, urinary tract infections, fungal infections, viral hemorrhagic fevers and a lot more during flight.
Does contracting disease during flight impute negligence on part of an airline?
On 16 June 2016, the European Commission seven-year-ban on all Zambian registered carriers into European Union (EU) airspace was lifted. This ban was imposed following several findings, and a significant safety concern in the air operator certification process, revealed through an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) audit on the Zambian civil aviation sector.
Opinion: The proposed revival of Uganda Airlines has been debated for several months, and indeed, a lot has been written against the same.
Those against revival argue that airlines are not profit-making entities, the airline will collapse again because Uganda has a history of mismanaging state enterprises, Uganda has other priorities like health and education where the massive start-up capital required to set up an airline could be invested.
Opinion:The business model of discount/no frills/budget airlines or Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) is based on low fares with limited services to keep costs to a minimum.
LCCs employ several cost cutting measures to ensure that their operating costs are less than those of traditional or Full Service Carriers (FSCs). The most common are; online ticket sales and check in, charges for checked in baggage and on-board refreshments, utilizing cheaper un-congested secondary airports, etc.
The current Ebola outbreak has so far claimed close to 5,000 lives. Unlike previous outbreaks confined to remote African villages, Ebola has this time round found its way into Europe and the United States due to the ease with which people can travel thousands of miles and interact socially within hours, thanks to aviation.
Whereas the chances of contracting a disease like Ebola in an aviation environment (airport/airplane) are remote, there is a real possibility of infected persons flying thousands of miles and carrying the same with them to their destination. This is worsened by the fact that passengers are screened for symptoms of disease upon arrival, not before departure.
From my own personal experience, I have flown twice out of Entebbe International Airport (to Nairobi in 2009 during the outbreak of Swine flu, and to South Africa last month after Ebola had already made headlines in West Africa) during outbreak periods. I was away for five days on both occasions and was welcomed upon my return to Uganda with sanitizers, health forms, temperature checks and interviews by health personnel. I was not screened before departing Entebbe in 2009. I was screened at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon disembarking but was not screened on my way out of Nairobi. Last month, I was only screened when I flew back into Entebbe five days later. There was no such screening at O.R Tambo International Airport.
The world is yet to recover from the shock of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. It was a very sad day for aviation and I sincerely hope the culprits shall be brought to book.
I have taken time to read the Montreal Convention (The Convention) and liability of carriers in such situations. Malaysia is one of the 107 states that are parties to the Convention.
The carrier is liable under Article 17 of the convention for the death of passengers if the accident that caused the death took place on board the aircraft, or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking. Contributory negligence or any wrongful act or omission on part of a passenger exonerates the carrier from any liability.