Nufam questions decision to allow airlines to carry full loads

The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia is upset it was not consulted when the social distancing rule was dispensed with onboard planes.

PETALING JAYA: The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) today expressed alarm over the decision to fill up airplanes and ignore the social distancing rules onboard flights.

It said the transport ministry today issued a letter to both the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) and Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) urging these regulators to skip the Covid-19 social distancing seat-blocking SOPs, which only allow a 66% load on planes.

In a statement today, Nufam said this would allow airlines to carry a full load on domestic and regional routes.

“This is very alarming. The pilots and cabin cew are crying foul over this new directive by the ministry.

“They have not even discussed anything with anyone but have already issued a directive which can put our crew and pilots at risk.

“The question now is whether the cabin crew can manage the Covid-19 SOPs on board with a 100% passenger capacity.

“The SOPs are meant for half of the load, not for a full load. There is going to be extra work for the cabin crew.

“The safety and welfare of our crew onboard these flights should also be of concern.”

On Thursday, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong announced that the government was doing away with social distancing on aircraft.

The decision was made as per the guidelines released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which instead put a priority on health screenings and adherence to wearing face masks, among others.

Wee said the decision was also arrived at after discussions with the health ministry and the National Security Council.

The earlier restriction on number of passengers had also increased the cost of airfares, making flying prohibitive.

Nufam said the ministry was practising double standards in trying to please the airlines but not asking them to place extra manpower on their flights.

“How will the crew carry out their services while carrying out the social distancing SOPs at the same time? It looks like someone has shifted the goal posts without asking us.”

Nufam said under the SOPs for RMCO, social distancing remained tight.

Who will take care of toilets on planes?

Nufam was also concerned about who should maintain the hygiene and sanitising of toilets on planes during flights.

Under the current SOP, the crew has to sanitise and check the toilets after every five passengers had used the toilets.

“Are special cleaners being engaged by the airlines to sanitise and maintain the cleanliness of these toilets every 10 to 15 minutes?

“Surely, they cannot expect the cabin crew to also clean and sanitise the toilets while carrying out in-flight services on board with a full load?”

The union said this put more burden on the crew and put them all at risk.

It said the health ministry had found many Covid-19 cases among those arriving from other countries.

“We also wonder if the health ministry gave its approval for planes to carry a full load and for the airlines to forgo the social distancing guidelines on flights.”

It urged the transport ministry to hold discussions with airline industry players and unions to iron out arising problems.

It also wanted the National Aviation Consultative Council (NACC), a consultative group under the ministry, to participate in these discussions as it was already six months since the last meeting.

Nufam said thousands of people had lost their jobs over the last three months and this issue also needed to be addressed.

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