Air France staff refuse to fly to west Africa amid fears of Ebola outbreak

Wednesday 20 August 2014 19.12
Ebola has killed 1,229 people so far this year in west Africa
Ebola has killed 1,229 people so far this year in west Africa

Some Air France flight crews are refusing to board planes bound for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria over fears of the Ebola outbreak.

Cabin crew scheduled to work on some flights "have not wanted to carry out their assignment", a spokesman for the company told AFP.

He refused to be drawn on numbers but said none of the flights destined for the region had ultimately been left short-staffed.

"In the end, all these flights left with the usual number of crew and with teams that had the usual level of qualifications, according to the regulations," he said speaking yesterday. 

Air France serves more west Africa destinations than any other major carrier.

It has given its staff freedom to choose whether or not they want to fly to Conakry, Freetown and Lagos after British Airways and Emirates suspended flights to the region.

Ebola has killed 1,229 people so far this year in west Africa, the worst outbreak ever of the virus.

Air France operates daily flights to Guinea and Nigeria and a service three times a week to Sierra Leone.

On Monday, one Air France union, SNGAF, launched a petition calling for the "immediate end to flights to countries hit by the Ebola virus".

"We know that our jobs put us at risk, but they are measured risks. This is completely out of control and the information is not the same from one day to the next," said Sophie Gorins, the secretary-general of the SNPNC, which represents cabin crew.

She said that hygiene measures implemented so far were "stop-gap" and that crew had "no idea if we are carrying a victim or if we ourselves are carriers of the virus".

Flight crews for Air France can request to be withdrawn from a scheduled flight if they believe their health or life is in "grave and imminent danger", with the team then usually replaced by a reserve team.

In 2009, as the world fought an outbreak of swine flu, some Air France crew refused to fly to Mexico.

Meanwhile, four residents of a quarantined Ebola-hit neighbourhood in the Liberian capital have been injured in clashes with police and soldiers sent in to seal off the area, an AFP correspondent and witnesses said.

The violence flared when the security forces went in to evaculate a government official and his family from the West Point neighbourhood of Monrovia, which is being contained as part of new security measures over the deadly virus.