British Airways cabin crew have expressed concerns they may have contracted the coronavirus while operating long haul flights over the past two weeks, according to reports.
Unions have demanded airlines do more to minimise the exposure of staff, and BA has insisted it has taken steps to reduce contact between customers and crew, with personal protective gear such as masks and gloves available.
However, pilots and cabin crews from BA have accused the airline of being slow to take action to protect them from the virus, according to the BBC.
One pilot reportedly said equipment was not always accessible and that staff sometimes travelled “shoulder-to-shoulder” on buses at airports.
The airline is still operating some flights to destinations including New York, which has seen more than 6,000 deaths as a result of Covid-19 and is now the epicentre of the US.
In a statement, BA said: “We follow all the guidance from the UK government and global health authorities, including Public Health England and the World Health Organisation.
“We have taken several steps to greatly reduce contact between customers and crew, and personal protective equipment is available to them.
“Like other forms of transport we are keeping vital links open – repatriating customers and ensuring key supplies like medicines and food are flown in. Our teams are doing an amazing job.”
In-flight services on a number of airlines including BA has been greatly reduced to minimise person-to-person contact, with passengers now given a packed lunch and drink when they board the plane.
Social distancing is also difficult to maintain on some flights. One pilot operating a domestic flight with a UK-based airline out of Manchester reportedly refused to take off until he was given a bigger aircraft.
BBC News says it has also learnt Public Health England has suggested every other seat on an aircraft should now be left empty to enable social distancing.
It’s a suggestion that could prove incredibly costly for any repatriation flights organised by the Foreign Office, though, and may not be feasible for airlines which have suffered a sharp decline in business in recent weeks.