Airline crews terrified of ebola: report

At Schiphol there is a growing fear of the deadly Ebola disease among pilots, cabin crew and ground staff.

According to research done by De Telegraaf, many are terrified of flying to Africa, or cleaning possibly infected aircraft, or handling luggage that may contain the virus. Dutch pilots and flight attendants call in sick more frequently on flights to West Africa such as Lagos (Nigeria) and Banjul (Gambia), destinations offered by KLM and ArkeFly.

KLM and ArkeFly yesterday denied that there is panic among their employees, but chairman Anette Groeneveld from VNC cabin union said that the tension is rapidly increasing. "We receive many phone calls and worry about the safety of our crews, however small the risk of infection is on board"

KLM captain Steven Verhagen, head of the Dutch Airline Pilots Association (VNV), confirmed the growing unrest. "It is a worrying development. Highest vigilance is required" he said, "I myself just returned from Accra in Ghana and on those flights too we have to pay attention to symptoms of sick passengers."

According to Verhagen and Groeneveld, the big problem is what to do if there is a suspected case of illness during a flight. "If that turns out to be Ebola, there will be hell to pay," said Verhagen. Groeneveld: "Then we will try to isolate the passenger with protective devices which are on board. We don't know whether this will be sufficient."

According to KLM they have daily contact with health authorities, and guidelines from world organization WHO and the Dutch RIVM are strictly followed. "We also have our own health service involved in briefing crews. A special information number is available 24 hours a day and we use protocols."