Source of Pilot Infection Still Under Investigation, Link to Community Transmission Remains Unknown
China Airlines is cooperating with the contact tracing efforts of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in Taiwan. The current CECC investigation into the COVID-19 infection of China Airlines crew members has so far found no evidence that the virus was brought into Taiwan by air crews. During its May 23 update on the progress of the investigation, the CECC also stated that the link to the sources of infection among the latest local confirmed cases is still unknown. Please refer to CECC announcements for COVID-19-related information. China Airlines is continuing to cooperate with the authorities and waiting for the results of the investigation.
Based on careful assessment of professional medical advice, international standards and guidelines, the CECC and CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration) define quarantine rules for the aircrews of local airlines. China Airlines respects and adheres strictly to all relevant guidelines and any decision by the CECC to make adjustments quarantine rules. China Airlines did not ask the Ministry of Health and Welfare or legislators to loosen the requirements on quarantine duration.
As the pandemic rages with the virus everywhere, on the most part our aircrews have followed the CECC policy and company rules. A small minority breached rules by going outside during the self-health management period. Although there is no evidence that these breaches resulted in the spread of the virus, China Airlines has taken disciplinary actions in accordance with company regulations. Demerits and suspensions have now been issued after an internal investigation and review.
China Airlines has upgraded our risk management measures by requiring all pilots to undergo swab tests and serum sampling. In accordance with the CECC’s vaccination program, we are also arranging for those personnel in Group 3 to receive their vaccinations. 65% of pilots have been vaccinated as of this week and the remaining pilots will be vaccinated as soon as their roster allows. The “Clearing Plan 2.0” is now being implemented by China Airlines. Crews have now been split up to ensure that “at risk” and “safe” groups are not mixed. Separate dispatching, reporting and transportation arrangements are now in place for front and aft cabin crews as well as safe and at-risk groups to ensure zero-contact at foreign stations. Upon their return to Taiwan, crew can opt for home quarantine on a single person per living unit basis, or stay at a quarantine hotel arranged by the company. We are ensuring that there is no possibility for breach of pandemic prevention measures.
China Airlines has always enforced strict pandemic prevention management for crew, including temperature screening as well as wearing protective gear (e.g. face masks, gloves, coveralls and goggles). China Airlines crews at foreign stations are cleared through Customs using dedicated express lanes and transported by a dedicated vehicle to their hotel. Each person has their own room and are given a one-time key card. Pandemic prevention actions at branches has now been strengthened. Managers at foreign stations now regularly inspect their hotels to ensure that people are being properly separated, disinfection procedures are being followed, and the health of hotel staff is being carefully managed. The inspection reports are submitted to the CAA every week. An “Air Crew Zero Contact Plan” has now been implemented as well to reduce risk at while on duty by minimizing contact between air crews and the cleaning, catering and maintenance staff. China Airlines continues to remind air crews to practice pandemic prevention during the "self-health management” period after they have completed their required quarantine period. This includes avoiding crowded areas where social distancing is difficult, or activities that involve close contact with other people or group gatherings.
China Airlines Press Release on COVID-19
In response to the activation of “Clearing Plan 2.0” by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), China Airlines plans to organize air crews into separate groups for rolling 14-day home quarantines. The airline is therefore not grounded and will continue flying with available crews. Preliminary projections indicate that more than 10% of cargo carrying capacity will be affected. Flight schedules are still being adjusted and changes will be updated on the China Airlines website.
China Airlines to Continue Flying with Rotating Crews Under “Clearing Plan 2.0”
In response to the activation of “Clearing Plan 2.0” by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), China Airlines plans to organize air crews into separate groups for rolling 14-day home quarantines. The airline is therefore not grounded and will continue flying with available crews.
All available manpower will be mobilized by China Airlines. The exact arrangements are still being finalized with the CECC but every effort will be made to ensure that essential flights will continue to operate with the crews available. Passenger and cargo flights are still in the process of adjustment. Please check with the China Airlines website for flight changes.
Priority will be given to cargo routes to ensure the continuity of the industries. The short-term reduction in Taiwan’s import/export capacity will have an effect on cargo transport times. The carrying of passengers will be canceled on selected routes as well. China Airlines is doing everything possible to continue providing its services under current conditions while balancing the demands of epidemic prevention with the physical and mental well-being of air crews.
China Airlines Flight Crews Continue to Follow CECC Directions on Epidemic Prevention
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is now the source for all information on COVID-19. While all China Airlines flight crews strictly follow epidemic prevention regulations while on duty, we are now cooperating fully with CECC’s contact tracing efforts, expanded screening and other requirements in accordance with the Communicable Disease Control Act to control and prevent the spread of the disease.
As part of our epidemic prevention response, all associated aircraft, vehicles, quarantine facilities and office areas have undergone deep cleaning in addition to standard cleaning and disinfection. The scope of cleaning has also been expanded. Epidemic response has now been upgraded as well. In addition to carrying out another round of disinfection immediately, disinfection frequency at company and airport offices has been increased. High-powered disinfectant approved by the US FDA is now used for disinfection twice a week. Elevator control panels, handrails and the outer elevator doors on each floor are now wiped down with 75% alcohol hourly. Elevator cabins are disinfected four times a day with diluted bleach as well for all employees’ peace of mind.
All relevant personnel are now carrying out home quarantine, self-health management and other measures; affected units are also setting up work from home or split office areas where necessary for effective management and to minimize contact. Foreign stations have also been reminded that front-line personnel including ground handling agents (GHA) must wear face masks and essential protective equipment when entering aircraft to ensure crew safety. Meal deliveries and personnel access to the cabins must also be managed more strictly. Any personnel accessing cabins not in compliance with the epidemic prevention regulations can be reported immediately by the flight crew. The company will emphasize the need for strict compliance to GHAs and impose harsher penalties for violations to provide flight crews with a safe working environment.
The global pandemic is still in full swing. Flight crews are on the front-line of the airline industry and have continued to carry out their flying missions no matter how serious the risk is at their destination. Even though flight crews always follow the epidemic prevention regulations and practice proper protection, the viral threat is everywhere. China Airlines will continue to enforce epidemic prevention and management measures for flight crews on duty, with the top priority being the prevention and containment of COVID-19 transmission. These measures include temperature screening as well as the wearing of face masks, gloves, hazard suits, goggles, and other protective equipment. All crew members must always wear face masks inside the cockpit. Only one person may remove their mask at any time for eating or drinking. During their time at foreign stations, they will be cleared through Immigration through the airport express channel and transported by dedicated vehicles. Hotel rooms will be disinfected and cleaned thoroughly, all meals are to be consumed inside rooms, and personnel must stay in their rooms at all times. We encourage all personnel to report any safety issues and work together for epidemic prevention.
China Airlines is committed to ensuring the physical and mental well-being of all front-line personnel. A crew self-health management system has been set up and an epidemic prevention hotline is provided to provide crews with health advice. Flight crews are also constantly reminded to wash their hands frequently and use alcohol-based disinfectant. Everything possible is being done to ensure the safety of crews and rigorous enforcement of epidemic prevention.
At the same time, China Airlines encourages all crew members to be vaccinated. This will help them protect themselves and the general population. Crews are now being vaccinated based on their personal willingness and quarantine regulations. Vaccinations will now be accelerated in line with the advice from the CECC.