|>>|| No. 23746
I accept that it's a lot easier to say what should have been done now, but during China's peak caseload we were still serving direct and transfer flights from Wuhan and greater China, with absolutely no safeguards in place. People were nervous then, but since no guidance was forthcoming, we just kept operating as usual. People were told it was fine, took the inaction as a good sign and clung on to that - we had an Easyjet cabin manager put in a complaint that a handling agent met in their flight from Italy wearing a mask - of course they fucking did.
A two week travel ban from China, and later on Spain and Italy, followed by re-naturalisation flights from the locked down countries with full screening for all passengers on said flights would have been a big operation, but it wouldn't have been difficult - just expensive, but still, I would bet, cheaper than having 2000 people on ventilators in ICUs, and countless more unable to work or spend money.
Something as simple as putting a couple of officials and medical staff on a plane back from these locked down countries, even if just to issue and explain an information pack and a tracking form, might have been enough to tip the scales to "maybe I should be taking this seriously". As it was, we were taking flights full of people from Verona, the only airport even running properly at the time, and they were coming off the plane and going home, with absolutely no guidance, let alone screening. I had to go out to meet one, and a couple of Special Branch showed up, and asked me what I needed them to do, what the procedure was. "nothing - there's no procedure" was the only answer I had, because that's exactly what we were being told to do even as Italy was locked down. They had expected medical staff and officials to meet the flight, but no, it was just me, the only one in the office who happened to be free and with a jetbridge license. We opened the door and they left and that was it.
In aviation, we're used to having a procedure or contingency for everything. I can tell you down to the minute what would happen in almost every conceivable disaster, accident, or malicious act, so being confronted with a pandemic with absolutely no guidance or procedure from anyone in any official capacity, I think we realised it was going to be bad before many others. You could just tell it was being ignored, it was very disconcerting. I also find it hard to swallow that the government doesn't have it's own contingency plans - surely they have guidelines and procedures for something like if we were invaded or Cornwall tried to become sovereign, but it really felt like they had absolutely no 'pandemic playbook', and if they did, they ignored it in fear of becoming unpopular.
As I say, I'm sure "next time" things will be different. Immediate cancellation of all flights from affected areas for the incubation period while testing is prepared and rolled out, screening set up in all ports and airports, and hospital based quarantine for any citizens returning after that time. It sounds like a lot, but it's better than what's happening right now, and I don't believe "well how could they know" is reasonable, when multiple other countries were hit before us.
I'm veering away from the point rapidly here - I'm not a medical expert, so I might be wrong in some of these assumptions. But what I do know is logistics, and the capabilities of airports and aviation in this country. Every flight operation, however far in advance we plan, is ran minute by minute, we are no stranger to changing procedure or thinking on our feet. We could have done almost anything the government asked of us, and we could have done it at a moment's notice. But we weren't asked to do anything.