LONDON – A TUI UK (BY) flight between Zante (ZTH) and Cardiff (CWL) has resulted in nearly 200 people having to self-isolate due to positive COVID-19 cases on board.
TOM6215 was the service in question, with 16 people already testing positive for the virus. 193 passengers who were on board the flight now have to self-isolate for a 14 day period.
A Concern for COVID Safety
A passenger on board the flight told UK outlet BBC that the flight had an “inept crew who couldn’t care less. This flight was a debacle. The chap next to me had his mask around his neck.”
“Not only did the airline not pull him up on it, they gave him a free drink when he said he knew a member of the crew. Loads of people were taking their masks off and wandering up and down the aisles to talk to others.
“As soon as the flight landed, a load of people took their masks off immediately.”
In a statement today, the airline remained clear on its safety protocols during this pandemic.
“Passengers are informed prior to travel and via PA announcements on the flight that they have to wear masks throughout and are not allowed to move around the cabin.”
“Masks can only be removed when consuming food and drink.”
A Complex Situation
It is understood that seven passengers had initially tested positive for the virus and were potentially infectious. The results also make it unclear whether the tests were taken out in Greek territory or back in the United Kingdom.
The count had then risen to 16 as soon as public health officials began warning the initial seven. There is a possibility, therefore, that the virus may have spread over the course of the flight or that more positive tests came in during the flight.
Is There a Blame Game?
Whilst this specific flight has produced some Coronavirus cases, there is definitely a bigger picture element to look at. There is at this stage a plethora of things that could have gone wrong to have caused such an outbreak.
The first are the initially affected passengers. Were they infected in Greece or in the UK? And if Greece, was there any substantive COVID testing at ZTH?
On the Zakynthos Airport website, it does detail what it has done to reduce the spread.
- Intensive cleaning & disinfection.
- Hand sanitizing stations.
- Placement of Protective Shields.
- Enhancement of Contactless processes.
- Boarding and Deplaning through pedestrian walkways.
- Raising passengers’ awareness on protective measures.
- Personal Protective Equipment to airport staff.
- Continuous and thorough training.
The airport was keen to note that random tests upon arrival were added from July 1 this year. However, the word “random” does not suggest complete testing during the security process.
The same element also applies to the likes of Cardiff Airport as well. Passengers returning would have started at CWL as well. CWL listed more or less the same list as ZTH, but there was no clear information regarding COVID testing.
Airways tried getting in touch with the Cardiff Airport press office, but at this time have not gone back to us.
TUI at Fault? What about the HEPA Filters?
From what the passenger said at the BBC, the fact that the Crew was not fully maintaining the protocol does express cause for concern. TUI did say that an internal investigation will take place over this, to determine if it was the Crew to blame for not enforcing the rules.
As for the HEPA filters, it shows that because the passengers were already infected with the virus, the response time to get rid of the bacteria-based air of two minutes may not have been enough in this case.
“Our Crew are trained to the highest standards. A full investigation is now underway as these concerns weren’t reported during the flight or before today.”
This is especially if potentially more passengers got infected onboard, with cases onboard rising from seven to 16. Scrutiny into HEPA filtration of air may continue as a result of this, especially with its promise of getting rid of 99.7% of all bacteria.
In terms of the blame game, there must be some level of responsibility across all parties, including passengers. If the selected passengers were COVID tested and didn’t get the results back before they flew on board, then that poses a risk to everybody else on-board.
As for the airports, there may need to be further extensive COVID screening before taking passengers onboard. In the case of TUI, it remains clear that more may need to be done to ensure rules are enforced when flying during a pandemic.
The accident in particular will definitely set a precedent for how a situation should not be handled going forward, especially with COVID being still a very much unknown virus in its devastating behavior.
Featured Image: TUI Boeing 737MAXs. Photo: Daniel Sander