Tags: US | Airline stocks | Ebola

Airline Stocks Gyrate on Fresh Ebola Fears

Wednesday, 15 October 2014 06:45 PM

News that a health care worker diagnosed with Ebola flew on a plane full of passengers raised fear among airline investors that the scare over the virus could cause travelers to avoid flying.

Shares of the biggest U.S. airlines tumbled between 5 and 8 percent before recovering in afternoon trading Wednesday. The overall market slumped on concern about slowing global economic growth, but also recouped some losses late in the day.

Health officials downplayed the possibility that any of the 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth could have gotten infected. The crew reported that the health care worker showed no symptoms during the flight.

Still, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the woman should not have flown on a commercial flight. Public-health officials were notifying the passengers.

In hoping to minimize any effect from Ebola, the airline industry is banking on assurances from health experts that the virus is spread only in the bodily fluids of someone already showing symptoms, and the presumption that someone that sick would not be physically able to travel.

Tony Tyler, CEO of the International Air Transport Association trade group, said Ebola was unlikely to reduce travel.

"You can't rule out that worry about this disease could cause a drop in traffic," he told reporters in San Diego. "My personal view is that is unlikely."

Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive, said that if the health care worker showed no symptoms on her Frontier flight, the decision to notify other passengers was made out of extra caution. "But all that rational thought aside, it may cause some people to delay trips," he said.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, said it was extremely unlikely that passengers could contract the disease because the health care worker was not vomiting or bleeding. But, he said, she should not have been on the flight because of the possibility that she had been exposed to Ebola and that she had a slightly elevated fever — which she failed to report.

"By both of those criteria, she should not have been on that plane," Frieden said on a call with reporters.

Frontier said Flight 1143 was that particular plane's last flight on Monday night, and it was cleaned overnight according to CDC standards before being used Tuesday. It was grounded early Wednesday morning but was expected to be back in flight by day's end, said a spokesman for the airline.

The same health care worker flew from Dallas to Cleveland on Oct. 10 on Frontier Flight 1142.

Since the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. last month, attention has focused mostly on travelers from West Africa, the center of the epidemic. The first victim was a Liberian man who flew into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on a United Airlines flight from Washington's Dulles Airport. That case led U.S. officials to expand health screening of passengers from West Africa who arrive at five major airports.

The latest health worker flew on a domestic flight from an airport where there is no screening for fever.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport says it handles about 165,000 passengers per day or 60 million in a year. Airlines there operate both international and domestic flights.

Representatives of several U.S. airlines told The Associated Press that they have not received any new guidance from CDC on monitoring passengers and cleaning planes since the first U.S. Ebola case. They said that each night, crews cleanse planes and wipe down surfaces such as armrests and tray tables with strong disinfectants.

Concern about Ebola and slower growth in the global economy have hurt airlines stocks in recent weeks, offsetting the benefit to airlines from falling fuel prices.

On Wednesday morning, airlines with the biggest international networks sold off the most before beginning to recover by early afternoon.

S&P Capital IQ analyst Jim Corridore blamed the morning sell-off mostly on the Ebola traveler news; he called the fear overblown. Barclay's analyst David Fintzen similarly discounted the likelihood of a major U.S. outbreak that could cripple travel.

United and Delta each fell more than 7 percent before recovering. United Continental Holdings Inc. closed down 62 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $42.55; Delta Air Lines Inc. lost 41 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $32.38. American Airlines Group Inc. fell 6.4 percent at one point but closed up 18 cents at $31.69. Southwest Airlines Co. bounced back from 5.3 percent down to close up 2 cents at $30.02.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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News that a health care worker diagnosed with Ebola flew on a plane full of passengers raised fear among airline investors that the scare over the virus could cause travelers to avoid flying.
US, Airline stocks, Ebola
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 06:45 PM
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