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Ebola: Cabin crew told to boycott Air France flights

The Local/AFP · 22 Aug 2014, 14:36

Published: 22 Aug 2014 14:36 GMT+02:00

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A trade union representing Air France cabin crew has told its members to refuse to board planes bound for West African countries hit by Ebola.

The UGICT –CGT union said crew were not sufficiently protected against contamination from Ebola and they should boycott flights bound to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

It comes after a petition was launched earlier this week calling on France’s flagship liner to suspend flights to the region until the deadly virus, which has so far claimed over 1, 350 lives is under control.

Earlier this week there was panic aboard a flight to Paris when several people fell ill.

As AFP reported the Air France flight from Freetown to Paris seemed to encapsulate the global panic in the face of the Ebola outbreak.

Anecdotes swirled around the cabin: apparently the same flight a few days ago carried three ill children, one with fever, two with diarrhoea. Passengers reportedly asked to move seats.

And it's not just the passengers who are fearful. The crew is short-staffed because employees are not exactly beating down the door of the Airbus A330 to fly to or from Ebola-hit West Africa.

Air France is one of the few airlines still flying to affected countries,as nations close their borders for fear of the outbreak and it insists it is doing everything possible to prevent anty contagion.

No one wore masks on the 20-minute hop between Freetown and Conakry (180kilometres, 110 miles), nor the long-haul flight to Paris that landed early Thursday morning. But the nervousness was palpable, even if the atmosphere was calm.

Authorities are grateful to companies like Air France who have kept flyingto Ebola-hit countries, even though they are struggling to find staff willing to operate the flights.

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"I would like to encourage Air France and Brussels Airlines to continuetheir operations in Sierra Leone," said Alimany Bangura, a top official at the economy ministry in Freetown.

"They give confidence back and prove that the situation (of the epidemic)is under control.

"They are our last hope."

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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