Travel Risk from Infected Travellers at Airports and on Flights

Flyers hiding infection show risk of reopening Hong Kong borders

People infected with coronavirus were allowed to board aircraft and travel to Hong Kong in recent days, highlighting the challenge of controlling the pandemic while governments seek the safest ways to reopen borders.

Hong Kong’s health authorities said one infected passenger arrived Sunday from Manila on a Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd flight, and another was on a Cathay Dragon flight from Kuala Lumpur. Both were diagnosed with COVID-19 before they traveled. It also said 45 passengers on Emirates flights from Dubai over the weekend either were confirmed or probable cases. The airline only restarted flights to Hong Kong this month.

For measures to be put in place to ensure infected passengers don’t fly, it has to be done by the authorities and it’s not something an airline like us can do on our own.

Korean Air Lines

The infections underscore the risk of peeling back restrictions when the global pace of infections keeps accelerating. Airlines worldwide, largely propped up by government bailouts, have been lobbying to get their planes back in the air as they face more than US$84 billion in losses this year.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 airlines, recommends steps such as temperature checks at the airport and wearing face masks to protect passengers and crew from infection.

But the Hong Kong cases show that infected passengers can bypass voluntary requirements, and there’s little airlines can do.

“Taking temperatures and having passengers wear masks on flights are steps we can do to ensure the virus doesn’t spread,” Korean Air Lines Co said in a statement. “For measures to be put in place to ensure infected passengers don’t fly, it has to be done by the authorities and it’s not something an airline like us can do on our own.”

IATA last week outlined recommendations for COVID-19 testing, saying it ideally would be done before arriving at the airport and within 24 hours of travel. If testing is required during the travel process, it should be done at departure, and governments would need to mutually recognize test results, IATA said.

In an online conference hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board on Wednesday, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac reiterated that there needs to be much more collaboration between governments, and that it doesn’t work for countries to impose and lift border restrictions unilaterally.

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection said the 30 new cases on Monday and 16 on Tuesday all had a travel history during the incubation period. The passenger flying on Cathay Flight 906 from Manila, a 58-year-old man, tested positive in the Philippines on Saturday, the day before he arrived.

Cathay, which requires passengers to fill out health declaration forms before they travel, said it learned about the passenger from health authorities after the plane landed. The airline is following “prescribed procedures in conducting disinfection of aircraft and informing the operating crew and employees,” as well as helping to trace those who were in close contact with the man.

A spokesman for the Philippine Immigration Bureau said it wasn’t the agency’s job to check health clearances.

“We only check the passport and boarding” pass, spokesman Melvin Mabulac said.

The passenger on Cathay Dragon Flight 734 was a 39-year-old woman returning from India via Malaysia, Hong Kong’s health department said Tuesday. After landing, she declared she’d tested positive and had been treated for the virus in India last month.

The Centre for Health Protection, which advises against all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong, said it is in contact with authorities in the Philippines and India to obtain more information about the cases.

The Hong Kong arrivals aren’t likely to be isolated cases. While some countries, including Australia, have said their borders are likely to be effectively closed for the rest of the year, others — including members of the European Union — are working on allowing more international flights.

Biogen Inc said in March it fired a female worker who returned to China from Massachusetts without disclosing her infection. Local media said the 37-year-old took a large dose of anti-fever medication before she boarded to hide her illness.

JetBlue Airways Corp. banned a passenger who flew from New York to Florida and notified the crew after landing that he had tested positive for coronavirus, CNN said in March.

Reported by China Daily on 26 June 2020.

China advise: DO NOT travel to Australia due to “an alarming increase” in racial discrimination and violence towards Chinese people in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

‘No basis in fact’: Australian Tourism Minister slams China’s travel warning

Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has slammed the Chinese government for instructing citizens not to visit Australia due to increasing racism as “having no basis in fact”.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Saturday morning advised the public not to travel to Australia due to “an alarming increase” in racial discrimination and violence towards Chinese people in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Mr Birmingham has rejected these comments outright, saying Australia was “the most successful multicultural and migrant society in the world”.

“The Chinese Australian community is a significant and valued contributor to that success story,” he said. China is the biggest single source of international tourists to Australia.

“Millions of tourists from all corners of the world demonstrate their confidence in Australia as a safe, welcoming and amazing destination by visiting each year, often returning multiple times.

“We reject China’s assertions in this statement, which have no basis in fact. Our rejection of these claims, which have been falsely made by Chinese officials previously, is well known to them,” he said.

In May, Mr Birmingham said his phone calls to his trade counterpart in China were not being answered amid an escalating dispute between Australia and China over beef and barley exports.

The Chinese government’s advice to citizens not to travel to Australia was issued shortly after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a planned overhaul of foreign investment rules with the Foreign Investment Review Board to be given the power to approve all investments in sensitive industries regardless of size. The FIRB currently assesses foreign investment activity worth above $275 million.

Mr Morrison intends to have the system up and running by 2021 to mitigate against “increasing risks to the national interest” but has said he did not want to inflame tensions with China.

University of Technology Sydney director of the Australia-China Relations Institute Professor James Laurenceson said the comments were “pretty standard Beijing practice” and had the hallmarks of retaliation.

“They are a response to the political disagreement, cloaked in plausible deniability as there has been an uptick in racism in Australia,” Professor Laurenceson said.

“There is a question mark over whether Beijing is shooting a warning shot or trying [to inflict] economic harm as there are no tourists here at the moment,” he said, adding it was most likely a way for the Chinese government to show displeasure.

Mr Birmingham said Australia had “world leading success” in suppressing the spread of COVID-19, which had originated in Wuhan in China, and was looking forward to having visitors back when the health advice allowed the lifting of border restrictions.

“Australia’s multicultural success is based on our respect for all Australians and visitors regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. It is our liberty as a free democratic society that enables us to embrace so many peoples while achieving a unity and inclusion that stands out in the global crowd,” he said.

He said closing the borders with China was “unfortunate” but was a move to protect Australia from the spread of the pandemic from Wuhan.

“This decision was criticised by the Chinese Government at the time, but it proved to be a critical decision in keeping Australians safe from the devastation faced by much of the rest of the world,” he said.

“Australians returning from China did an amazing job through self isolation to protect Australia at that critical time, as many more have since.”

Australian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Simon Westaway declined to comment directly on the Chinese government’s instructions to citizens but said the organisation “welcome a future return of international visitors” as the local industry recovers.

Perth USAsia Centre research director Jeffrey Wilson described the Chinese government’s directions as “ludicrous and inflammatory” but not unexpected.

Cheng Jingye, the Chinese ambassador to Australia, expressed frustration in April about the federal government’s push for an inquiry into the outbreak of COVID-19, and warned there could be a travel ban.

“The ambassador [talked about this] six weeks ago and now it has come true,” Dr Wilson said.

“First it was barley, then beef, now tourism and students… it’s part of long-running trade sanctions,” he said.

“The longest shadow of this will be over the education market… it sends a message in terms of stoking fear and concern about what conditions are like in Australia.”

Reported by the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 June 2020.

Travel Risk in Hong Hong Increases after Police Seize 1st Homemade Pipe Bomb

6 more held over 1st seizure of homemade bomb in HK

HONG KONG – Six more people, including two students, were arrested on Wednesday in connection with a homemade pipe bomb seized by police – the first one found in Hong Kong.

The day before, police had defused a handmade bomb containing 40 grams of explosives in a subdivided flat in Mong Kok and arrested four people.

ALSO READ: HK govt warns of homemade bombs as explosives seized

At a public briefing on Wednesday, police said they arrested six more suspects, all males aged from 17 to 23 years, in different districts. The suspects included two students, a kindergarten teacher, a barista and two unemployed people.

They were arrested on suspicion of manufacturing explosives, possessing dangerous substances, and illegal assembly. Police believe they are members of a radical group with a low profile, adding that they intended to use the bomb to attack police officers or vandalize police facilities by detonating the device at a mass public event.

Police said it is the first time that a homemade pipe bomb had been found in Hong Kong. This type of bomb, often used overseas to attack government facilities, could cause serious injuries even death after exploding into small pieces.

The police reiterated that making explosives with the intent to endanger life or property is a serious crime punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Reported by China Daily Hong Kong on 16 January, 2020.

Travel Risks for 2020

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Boeing increased Travel Risk by installing failed parts on 737 aircraft

FAA Proposes $5.4 Million Civil Penalty Against The Boeing Co.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $5.4 million civil penalty against The Boeing Co. for allegedly installing nonconforming slat tracks on approximately 178 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which Boeing subsequently presented as ready for airworthiness certification.

This proposed civil penalty is in addition to a previously proposed civil penalty of more than $3.9 million against Boeing for allegedly installing the same nonconforming components on approximately 133 Boeing 737 NG aircraft. The FAA sent that letter to Boeing in early December.

Slat tracks are located on the leading edge of a Boeing 737’s wings and are used to guide the movement of panels known as slats. These panels provide additional lift during takeoff and landing.

The FAA alleges that Boeing failed to adequately oversee its suppliers to ensure they complied with the company’s quality assurance system. The agency contends that this failure resulted in the installation of slat tracks that were weakened by a condition known as hydrogen embrittlement that occurred during cadmium-titanium plating.

The FAA further alleges that Boeing knowingly submitted aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test.

The agency alleges that the affected slat tracks were processed by Southwest United Industries (SUI), a third-tier supplier to Boeing… Between June 29, 2018, and July 1, 2018, SUI subsequently shipped the parts to Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. (Spirit), which then delivered the parts to Boeing.

The FAA also alleges that SUI notified Kencoa Aerospace, LLC, on July 6, 2018, that a batch of slat tracks had failed a quality test indicating the presence of hydrogen embrittlement. Kencoa passed that information to Spirit on or about Aug. 3, 2018.

The FAA alleges that Spirit informed Boeing of the situation on or about Sept. 11, 2018, and subsequently proposed that Boeing accept the parts as delivered. On Oct. 9, 2018, Boeing rejected that proposal and instructed Spirit to submit a Notice of Escapement. Spirit filed that notice on Feb. 14, 2019, according to documents.

The FAA further alleges that from Aug. 16, 2018, through Oct. 9, 2018, Boeing certified as airworthy approximately 13 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft potentially equipped with those slat tracks. Between Oct. 10, 2018, and Mar. 10, 2019, Boeing certified an additional 165 potentially affected 737 MAX aircraft as airworthy.

The FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on Aug. 15, 2019, mandating inspections of the affected aircraft that were proposed in a June 24, 2019 Boeing service bulletin. The AD specified various actions based on the ability to identify the slat tracks.

The FAA alleges that Boeing failed in this instance to maintain its quality system to ensure suppliers adhered to Federal Aviation Regulations.

Boeing has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

Reported by Air Transport News on 11 January 2020.

Southwest Airlines Operated Flights with Incorrect Calculations of Weight and Balance Data

FAA Proposes $3.92 Million Civil Penalty Against Southwest Airlines

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $3.92 million civil penalty against Southwest Airlines for allegedly operating multiple aircraft on commercial flights with incorrect calculations of weight and balance data.

The FAA alleges that between May 1, 2018, and August 9, 2018, Southwest operated 44 aircraft on a total of 21,505 flights with incorrect operational empty weights, and center of gravity or moment data. This weight-related information is used along with other data in determining how many passengers and how much fuel can be safely carried, as well as where cargo must be located.

The FAA alleges that Southwest’s operation of these aircraft was contrary to the airline’s approved weight-and-balance program and FAA-issued operations specifications.

Southwest has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

Reported by Air Transport News on 11 January 2020.