British Airways is the latest airline to halt flights to West Africa amid concerns regarding the Ebola outbreak that has killed 887 people in the region since February. The airline announced Tuesday it was suspending flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia until Aug. 31 “due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries.”
Normally, the carrier operates a direct flight from London to Freetown, Sierra Leone, that goes on to Monrovia, Liberia, four times a week. British Airways does not operate flights to Guinea, the third country facing the epidemic.
“The safety of our customers, crew and ground teams is always our top priority and we will keep the routes under constant review in the coming weeks,” the airline said in a statement.
The airline’s announcement follows Saturday’s decision by Emirates, the world’s largest international airline by air traffic, to ground its flights to Guinea because of Ebola fears. Before that, Nigerian airline Arik Air and regional Asky Airlines had also suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
But the International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing the world’s airlines, is not recommending carriers avoid the region, citing the World Health Organization’s assertion the risk of catching the virus from a fellow passenger on a plane is incredibly low.
The association said Thursday it was monitoring the situation and would follow the recommendations set forth by WHO.
Other European airlines, including Air France and Brussels Airlines, are continuing normal operations to West Africa, as are American carriers Delta and United.
British Airways customers who had tickets to the canceled destinations will qualify for a full refund or the ability to rebook, the airline said.