JetBlue says a passenger who took a flight from New York's JFK Airport to Palm Beach, Florida, this week even though he knew he might be infected with the coronavirus will no longer be allowed to fly on the airline. The passenger received a message during the flight Wednesday night confirming he'd for the virus.
JetBlue — one of many airlines that are currently waiving change and cancellation fees for customers who wish to change their due to the coronavirus outbreak — said it has banned the passenger from future JetBlue flights.
"We determined the customer boarded our flight knowing he was awaiting results for a coronavirus test without disclosing it to anyone at JetBlue," the airline said in a statement to CBS News. The "event put our crewmembers, customers, and federal and local officials in an unsettling situation that could have easily been avoided, and as such, this customer will not be permitted to fly on JetBlue in the future."
According to another passenger, who claimed in a video posted online that he had spoken to the infected man's wife during the flight, the man knew he was likely positive even before they took off. The fellow passenger told CNBC that he was informed that the patient "had been tested for the virus two days ago and got a text message on the plane while he was on the plane."
Palm Beach County Fire Rescue officials told CBS affiliate WPEC that "passengers in the vicinity of the positive patient were advised of monitoring procedures." Captain Albert Borroto of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said all other passengers had been sent home and were advised to call the public health department if they have any medical concerns.
The Palm Beach County Health Department has spoken with all passengers who were on the JetBlue flight, and a spokesperson for the county's emergency services said "all CDC and Department of Health guidelines were followed for a COVID-19 positive patient."
Borroto also said Palm Beach International Airport sterilized the "limited containment area" where the passengers were deplaned, "which was a separate location from the main terminals of the airport."
Local news stations reported Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director in Palm Beach County, advised the 114 people onboard Flight 253 as they disembarked from the flight.
"An individual on this flight got a text that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He has not been coughing or sneezing or anything on the plane," Alonso reportedly told passengers. "At this point, you're free to walk around and move around because, most likely, you're not going to have anything because there was no activity. The way you get this virus is somebody has to cough or sneeze on you."
Following the incident, JetBlue released a statement reassuring customers that it had "conducted a thorough sanitizing of the aircraft according to CDC guidance. We have also sanitized common areas in both airport terminals involved." It said it was coordinating closely with health officials.
During an appearance on "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said the airline has taken significant steps to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus on all flights. "We are deep cleaning and sanitizing and disinfecting our airplanes every night," Hayes said. "In addition, we have wipes on board so customers can come on and can wipe down their seat if they want to sort of take some additional precautions."