Korean Air says it is taking proactive measures in every sector to ensure the safety of passengers, as the number of the new Coronavirus cases quickly rises in China.
On January 30 it announced that it has formed an emergency response team to deal with the spread of the new Coronavirus and set up a thorough process to preempt any possibility of infection with all relevant departments such as the airport service office, flight operations, cabin crew operations, maintenance, aeromedical centre and the operations control division.
Korean Air has also suspended its flights between Incheon and Wuhan from January 24 to March 27 and will suspend or reduce the frequency of some of its routes to China in consideration of the falling demand due to the new coronavirus.
The airline said it has strengthened the level of cabin disinfection since January 30 for airliners that have flown on routes to China. The airline sterilizes aircraft arriving from large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao and Guangzhou to Incheon Airport upon arrival. Aircraft flying to other destinations in China will be disinfected periodically in order to actively prevent the spread of infection.
Korean Air also announced some changes to in-flight services to minimize the risk of onboard infection from January 31. Disposable cutlery will be used to serve in-flight meals on all China routes, which will then be disposed of in sealed plastic bags to prevent cross infection.
Comfort items such as blankets and pillows will not be provided, and in-flight meals for return flights from Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei and Shanghai, which are usually supplied locally, will be loaded at the time of departure from Incheon.
For the safety of its crew members, Korean Air will temporarily suspend the crew’s layover schedule pattern on Kunming and Guangzhou routes. Instead, extra crew members will be assigned to cover the inbound flight, while those working on the outbound flight can rest on the return flight.
Korean Air flight attendants are recommended to wear masks and plastic gloves on all routes, and the airline is loading each flight with adequate equipment in preparation for any possible infection onboard: masks for passengers seated near suspicious patients and hazmat suits for flight attendants who may need to take care of onboard patients.
Additionally, masks and hand sanitizers are prepared at airports and sales offices where employees provide face-to-face services. The airline will also provide sanitary items such as masks and hand sanitizers to domestic and global offices, including China, that are facing a huge mask shortage.
Regarding the temporary suspension and capacity cuts on routes to China, Korean said it will extend the suspension period of the Incheon-Wuhan route to prioritise passengers’ safety. While the airline had announced its suspension of the route until January 31, the suspension has been extended until March 27, the end of the airline’s winter season. Korean Air will decide whether to resume the flight depending on the development of the new coronavirus outbreak.
In addition, Korean Air will suspend or reduce the frequency of some of its routes to China from February 2. These measures are aimed at preventing the further spread of the new coronavirus and in response to the falling demand following the shutdown of major tourist sites in China and business trip restrictions of Korean companies.
Temporary suspension will be imposed on routes such as Incheon and Huangshan/Zhangjiajie/Changsha/Kunming; Jeju and Beijing; and Busan and Beijing/Nanjing. Routes between Incheon and Qingdao/Shenyang will see a decrease in frequency from 14 to seven flights a week, and the Incheon-Beijing route from 17 to 14 flights a week. The frequency of routes between Busan and Qingdao/Shanghai will also be reduced from seven to four flights a week.
In order to minimise passengers’ inconvenience, the airline said it will provide substitute flights for passengers with a booked flight on an affected route and waive refund penalties for those cancelling their tickets. The airline will also waive fees for passengers changing their tickets.