Ebola outbreak: Emirates President says virus has hit Asian demand for Africa flights

'There are indications that demand in the east is coming off a little bit because of the perception that Ebola is Africa-wide'

The demand for Emirates flights from Asia to Africa has fallen due to fears over the Ebola virus, the airline’s president announced on Thursday.

Tim Clark said the misconception that the whole of Africa has been affected by the outbreak has led to a drop in passengers on the Dubai-based airline.

"There are indications that demand in the east is coming off a little bit because of the perception that Ebola is Africa-wide,” Clark told an Africa-focused investment event in Dubai.

"There are segments of our business in China, Taiwan, Vietnam et cetera that are fairly cautious about what they are doing, but for every one of those we lose, we're filling with something else."

More than 7,100 people have contracted the virus in West Africa and more than 3,300 have died after contracting it, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Sierra Leone and Liberia have been among the West African countries worst hit by the outbreak.

 

In August Emirates suspended flights to Guinea, where the ongoing Ebola outbreak originated, but has continued flying to other affected destinations. Clark said the airline was not considering halting any other African routes.

Emirates staff look for signs that passengers may be unwell, but otherwise the airline is not taking any other extra precautions for Ebola.

"We don't have armies of people as we had with the Sars virus for instance - that was a pandemic that was far greater than Ebola in its spreading contagion," Clark said.

"But we're not providing our crews with masks because it (Ebola) will be controlled."

Emirates flies to about 22 destinations in Africa, he said, predicting it could add another 10 to the continent by 2025 as well as raising the frequency of flights on some existing routes.

"We're looking at Mozambique. Where you see oil and gas discovery, (it) has got to be of interest for people like ourselves.

“We can connect the oil and gas human resource. We can connect the cargo into the oil and gas fields. A lot of the stuff travels by air. We're constantly looking for opportunities,” Clark said.

Last week, the first case of Ebola on US soil was diagnosed in an unidentified man in Texas. The patient, who was visiting family in the US from Liberia, presented himself at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Friday.

He is reportedly critically ill and being treated in a glass-walled room on the intensive care unit. 

Additional reporting by Reuters

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