Korean Air halts Nairobi flights amid Ebola fear

18 Aug 2014

Korean Air plans to temporarily suspend flights to Nairobi in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in Africa. A spokesperson from the South Korean flag carrier has confirmed with Business Traveller Asia-Pacific that the suspension of the Incheon-Nairobi service will start from August 20 (Wednesday).

It is one of the latest airlines to cancel flights to Africa because of the developing situation, including Emirates and British Airways, which have halted flights to West Africa (see story). The difference is, Nairobi is in the East African country of Kenya, which is on the other side of the continent and where there has not been a reported Ebola case. The nation's government, however, has taken a pre-emptive measure and announced that it will ban travellers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, three of the countries most hard-hit by the disease so far.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated that the risk of transmission of Ebola during air travel remains low, as the virus is not airbourne. Dr Isabelle Nuttall, director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response said: “It can only be transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease.” The chance of that happening is small, he added.

According to WHO, a person is sick with Ebola is likely to be too ill to travel. The UN agency has urged countries to be prepared to "to identify and care for travellers originating from known Ebola-infected areas who arrive at international airports or major land crossing points with unexplained fever and other symptoms" but it does not recommend any ban on international travel or trade.

“Because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola,” says Dr Nuttall.

Nairobi is Korean Air's only African destination, served by a 218-seat A330-200 on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.


Valerian Ho and Reggie Ho

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