Taiwan’s Eva Airways said on Tuesday it had sacked four pilots and four cabin crew since March for breaching rules designed to prevent Covid-19 transmission.
The airline made the admission following the revelation that a New Zealand pilot broke a 250-day Covid-19-free streak in the country when he brought the virus back from an international layover and infected a local woman.
The case ignited public anger after the government said he had not reported all his contacts and the places he had been, nor worn a face mask in the cockpit when he should have.
“Eva Air always attaches great importance to discipline, and the vast majority of crew members on the front line of duty face transportation and epidemic prevention tasks with a cautious and serious attitude,” said an official airline statement.
In the statement, Eva Air did not give details of the other sackings.
The government has since tightened its rules for airline crew, including on quarantines when they return to Taiwan, and has also fined Eva Air US$35,000 for the New Zealand pilot incident.
As a result, Eva Air said it would now clamp down even further on international aircrew in an attempt to avoid a repeat occurrence.
A spokesperson said flight attendants and pilots would now be required to wear face masks, goggles and gloves whenever they leave their hotel room on an international layover, although crew would be encouraged to shelter in place during their layovers.
In fact, the airline said it was now working with hotels in certain destinations to record the movements of its crew to ensure they don’t leave their hotel rooms or have visitors stay over.
Eva Air believes the New Zealand pilot was infected during a layover and then failed to comply with strict self-isolation rules on his return to Taipei. The pilot is now known to have visited crowded public spaces while infectious but lied to contract tracers in what is believed to have been an attempt to cover up for the fact that he broke quarantine rules.
Since that incident, the airline will now require crew to take a Covid-19 test before being released from home quarantine. Aircrew are already only permitted to operate a maximum of two international flights that require a layover per month because of the strict quarantine rules.
In addition, Eva pilots will be required to wear a face mask at all times during a flight unless they are actively eating or drinking. Only one pilot at a time will be permitted to remove their face mask to eat or drink.
In contrast, many airlines permit pilots to remove their face masks on the flight deck.