• By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Are you safe to fly? Airlines will make sure

As international flights gradually resume, airlines have adopted rigorous protective measures, such as as the mandatory wearing of face masks, cabin disinfection and preflight health checks among others, in an effort to prevent in-flight transmission of Covid-19.

United Airlines now require travelers to complete a health self-assessment during the check-in process prior to boarding.

United said it is the first American airline to implement the self-assessment requirement, which it noted was based on recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic.

The “Ready-to-Fly” checklist asks customers to confirm they have not experienced Covid-19-related symptoms in the 14 days prior to flying.

United said the assessment is part of United CleanPlus, the company’s policy to put health and safety of its customers and crew.

"As people are returning to their daily activities during the Covid-19 pandemic, their health and safety – as well as the health and safety of others - should continue to be top-of-mind,” said Dr. James Merlino, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center and a United CleanPlus advisor.

"Our health experts are pleased to play a role in helping people travel more safely and we worked closely with United to develop a health self-assessment for its customers to better ensure precautions are taken before beginning their journey.”

In the CNMI, a total of five passengers on two separate flights—on May 28 and 30— from Guam to Saipan tested positive. All of the passengers were asymptomatic.

“We have been made aware that passengers on our Guam-Saipan flights have tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival at the Saipan airport,” United Corporate Communications said.

“Upon receiving official notification from local health authorities, we immediately took the necessary actions to follow the appropriate medical guidelines and procedures set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including removing the subject aircraft from operation for an entire cabin sanitization process,”

United earlier said it will be operating an estimated 85 percent fewer flights in May and June 2020 compared to the same period last year.

“The health and safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority, and we have been working closely with trusted medical experts and partners to institute new practices and procedures to further protect those who work and travel with us,” said Pat Baylis, United’s Corporate Medical Director. “United’s ‘Ready-to-Fly’ wellness checklist sets clear guidelines on health requirements for our customers and helps minimize the risk of exposure during the travel experience.”

The health self-assessment is part of the United CleanPlus program, which was launched in partnership with Clorox - and the country's top medical experts - Cleveland Clinic - to inform and guide United's new cleaning, safety and social distancing protocols that includes touchless check-in for baggage at select locations, sneeze guards, and mandatory face coverings for crew and customers onboard our flights.

“In April, United became the first major U.S.-based airline to require flight attendants to wear a face mask while on duty, and beginning in May, expanded that mandate to include all employees and customers on board. This includes front-line workers like pilots, customer service agents and ramp workers when on board an aircraft, along with any other United employees traveling using their flight benefits,” United said.

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The Philippine Airlines, for its part, said it will enforce a “no-mask-no-fly policy” in coordination with airport authorities. Passengers are required to bring their own face coverings and he carrier’s pilots and cabin crew will undergo medical evaluation before their flights.

“All personnel are trained to the appropriate health protocols and handling of unwell passengers,” PAL said.

PAL said crew members will be equipped with Personal Protective Equipment, including masks, face shields and specially designed PPE uniforms.

PAL said its passengers will be served meals and beverages in “secure packaging” to minimize close contact, and reading material will no longer be distributed during the flight.

“As we uphold the health and safety of our passengers and staff to mitigate the risk of infection, we seek the cooperation of our flying public. This must be a concerted effort,” said PAL president Santa Maria.

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In accordance with guidance set forth by Cleveland Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), United's Ready-to-Fly checklist requires customers to click “Accept” to indicate they have reviewed the checklist during the digital check-in process on the United mobile app, United.com, on a United kiosk, or by reviewing and verbally confirming when checking-in with an agent at the airport to receive a boarding pass.

The checklist includes the following:

· You must wear a face covering while on board for the safety of everyone.

· Have not been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last 21 days. Have not experienced any of the following symptoms in the past 14 days (excludes symptoms from a pre-existing condition)

o Temperature of 38 C/100.4 F or higher o Cough o Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing o Chills o Muscle pain o Sore throat o Recent loss of taste or smell

· Have not been denied boarding by another airline due to a medical screening for a communicable disease in the last 14 days.

· Have not had close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 14 days.

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