Allow cabin staff to wear face masks, Nufam urges airlines

The flight crew from China Eastern Airlines arriving in Sydney from Wuhan. The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia says airlines are afraid their passengers will be alarmed if they allow crew members to don masks and gloves. (AP pic)

PETALING JAYA: The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) has asked all airlines to allow their crew and staff to wear face masks to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus.

In a statement to FMT, it also urged the transport ministry to issue a directive to all airlines without delay, especially those flying from China.

It said some of the airlines are yet to issue notices or to allow their crew and staff to wear masks. These cases have been reported to the union.

“We are concerned about this as it appears that the airlines are more worried about their image and do not want to allow their crew to wear face masks.”

It said this was apparently being done to avoid alarming the passengers travelling on board.

“But the welfare of the crew and staff must be given priority as well,” the union added.

It further said there should not be any coercion or control to stop the crew members from wearing the face masks and gloves as they work on “high-risk” flights.

Nufam’s statement comes after seven crew members of Malindo Air were quarantined for up to 14 days in Zhengzhou, China, after a passenger on board was suspected to have been infected with the disease.

Nufam added that the Cathay Airlines Union had also recently demanded that their airline allow their crew members to wear face masks. The airline had initially refused this request, it said.

“We are urging our local airlines here to act fast by providing gloves, masks and disinfectant gel on flights,” it said as the crew’s duties involved clearing passengers’ meal trays.

Nufam also wants fresh guidelines issued following the coronavirus scare.

“The risk is much higher for airline crew as they are exposed to thousands of passengers travelling daily in and out from different countries.”

It urged crew members to follow any regulations strictly.