Contact Us
Century International Hotels



Cathay’s Harley: It’s OK to travel, SARS don’t thrive inflight
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Arlene Dabu-Foz
Date: 2003-06-01
Yes folks, it’s OK to travel since Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) does not thrive on board. And passengers cannot contract SARS inflight!

Adrian Harley, Cathay Pacific (CX) country manager said so in his subtle information blitz held recently at the CX main office at the LKG Tower in Ayala Avenue, Makati City.

And why the campaign?

If ignorance could kill, then half of the world’s population might have been done and over with today because of wrong perceptions about the dreaded SARS, the latest puzzling ailment to hit the world after the horrifying Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Since the shocking discovery of the Chinese mainland-borne SARS, the World Health Organization (WHO) was prompted to issue both precautionary and sometimes unwanted travel advisories listing as SARS affected areas several Asian countries like the People’s Republic of China (PROC), the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, as well as Canada and other Western countries.

Since then, the world economy and the people’s lives worldwide have been topsy-turvy. And why not? Even without being infected and/or sentenced to die because of SARS, the fear of such is toxic enough to kill a person who does not have a precise background about the disease.

Sensationalized news even worsened the fear of travel bugs. All of a sudden, life has come to a halt. Stay at home is the best that one can do or do not go anywhere else, especially outside the country since you have to board a plane and SARS will catch up on you during one of those flights! Either way, the expected reaction would be, “How morbid can it be,” or “How true can it be?” The plain truth is, how morbid fear can be!

Thus, the CX pitch. As one of the world’s biggest airlines, CX came up with a low key information campaign of what has the company been doing to restore people’s confidence in flying.

Harley’s brief presentation about their latest pitch titled “Flying Without Fear,” aims to quell fears, dispel some of the myths and shed more rational light on the issue even after the situation has already stabilized, he said.

CX definitely was on time in launching the information campaign as SARS has injured the world economy – right after terrorism – with loss that cannot be quantified. Some businesses, especially in the highly affected areas like Hong Kong and Taiwan, were forced to close shop since travel to and from those countries nose-dived.

Airports all over the world have heightened their own security measures to block off entries of passengers from highly affected countries. Among passengers, there is also the embarrassment or humiliation of being isolated or quarantined on suspicions of being SARS-carriers.

Harley said that the mortality rate of people dying from the flu-like symptomatic SARS is minimum compared to death by accident.

“There’s a bigger possibility, for instance, that three people in the United Kingdom will die of car accidents than one person to die of SARS anywhere in the world in one day. The bottomline is that the risk of SARS inflight transmission is very low. The SARS virus needs a living host in a cooler climate to thrive. That may be why SARS can’t also thrive in the Philippines because of the country’s humid temperature,” explained Harley.

Quoting WHO, Harley said that the risk of SARS inflight transmission is very low, and there are only five cases in 200 million persons traveling since the outbreak, and SARS is spread by people and not by air travel.

Harley underscored that passenger safety is among CX’s top priorities. “We have precautionary health measures in place to protect the traveling public and our staff. Since the SARS outbreak, we beefed-up these health measures to prevent inflight transmissions. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of SARS transmission in any CX flight.”

CX’s battle with SARS is heightened with stricter ground and inflight procedures. On board, the cabin’s air circulation, filtration systems and disinfecting measures have been doubled up ever since. Even food preparation hygiene is thoroughly in place, he said.

But despite these actions, CX operations have been hampered, according to Harley. If CX sustained some 75 percent loss since the break out of SARS, Hong Kong where their headquarters is, also suffered a big blow trade-wise.

Asia-wide travel has been badly hit since the SARS.

“All our flights originate from Hong Kong and half the number of CX flights in the region suffered because of SARS. For instance, we had to decrease our Manila-Hong Kong flights from six times daily to twice daily. We did the same with our Los Angeles flight and some European flights. But, once the situation normalizes, we expect to increase the same route flights by July or August,” he said.

Alongside CX, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is also doing its best to renew the traveling public’s confidence to travel to Hong Kong. Two weeks ago, WHO lifted its travel advisory on Hong Kong, which is expected to raise the influx of visitors – businessmen, overseas workers and leisure travelers — to the territory.

To further educate the traveling public, especially those on CX flights to and from the SARS-affected areas, Harley said, an intensified information blitz is also being drummed-up with the assistance of travel agencies. Handouts are being given away to passengers so that they will know first-hand the steps they need to take before flying to a destination. The information is also available on the CX website.

“Now we are more optimistic about how things are turning out, since the recent conventions in Geneva, Switzerland and Clarkfield in Pampanga helped a lot in shedding light as to what can be done to put SARS under control and what the traveling public should do to protect themselves from being infected,” said Harley.


Indonesia Thailand USA Europe Canada Hong Kong Philippines