The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the spread of the disease to parts of Europe and the U.S. is taking a toll on the airline industry.
Carriers around the world have seen their stock prices fall over the last month, with North American and Asian airlines witnessing the largest declines. The NYSE ARCA Airline Index, which measures the market performance of major airlines, is down more than 12 percent since September. A recent report by the International Air Transport Association quoted by the Australian web site news.com.au attributes the decline to "investor concerns over the spread of Ebola."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the Homeland Security Department's Customs and Border Protection unit (CBP), on Wednesday announced new screening measures at five of the nation's airports. Those facilities receive over 94 percent of travelers from the West African nations that are coping with the lethal Ebola outbreak. The five airports are John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty, which both serve New York metropolitan area; Dulles outside Washington; O'Hare in Chicago; and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport.
"We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. "We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa."
As part of the enhanced screening, U.S. customers personnel will be monitoring all travelers at U.S. ports of entry for signs of illness. The CDC is also dispatching staff to each of the five airports to assist in those screening efforts.
The Federal Aviation Administration says it has worked with the CDC to develop infectious disease guidelines for airline and air medical transport crews, as well as for aircraft cleaning and cargo personnel.
The Obama Administration has dismissed calls for air travel bans from the U.S. to West African nations facing the Ebola outbreak. But British Airways recently extended a suspension of flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone until the end of March in 2015. That move was met with an angry response from Lewis Brown, Liberia's information minister, who on Wednesday accused British Airways of undermining efforts to control the disease.
"We need as many airlines coming in to this region as possible, because the cost of bringing in supplies and aid workers is becoming prohibitive," Brown said in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper.
"There just aren't enough seats on the planes," he added. "I can understand BA's initial reaction back in August, but they must remember this is a global fight now, not just a West African one, and we can't just be shut out."