Unhappy with Ebola screening measures in place at small airports, the Indian aviation regulator on Thursday directed airlines to restrict landings of flights from Ebola-affected regions to seven Indian airports.
According to a circular issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), only the airports in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kochi and Chennai have ‘thorough screening, quarantine and isolation facilities’ for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
Taking note of this, the safety regulator has asked airlines to re-route their flights from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Mali – the four Ebola hotspots – to airports in the seven major cities. At present, 18 domestic airports are screening passengers for Ebola.
“Currently, small airports such as Nagpur and Pune are catering to flights originating from EVD affected countries. The preventive measures at small regional airports were not up to the mark,” said a senior DGCA official, requesting anonymity.
The DGCA circular added all passengers travelling from EVD affected regions will be ticketed to the seven major airports. “We have asked airlines to inform passengers about the revision of flight schedules well in advance, to avoid last minute inconvenience,” said another DGCA official. Airlines plying on these routes will also have to submit weekly reports of passengers in each airport to the regulator, the circular added.
The move comes less than a week after a DGCA audit found airlines and airport staff to be lax in following Ebola screening measures. The audit revealed while some airlines failed to distribute forms to record passengers’ medical and travel histories, in many cases, the cabin crew had not been briefed on ways of dealing with fliers showing symptoms of the disease.
The revised guidelines also advise the airline crew to isolate suspected Ebola infected travellers on flights. “We have asked crew to rearrange the seats of fliers showing Ebola symptoms if possible, and reserve a toilet on board for such fliers,” said another senior DGCA official.