DFW Airport travelers unruffled by Ebola threat

Passengers who were on Frontier Airlines flight 1142 from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to Cleveland on Oct. 10 are being asked to call the Centers for Disease Control because a nurse who was infected with Ebola was on the flight.

Earlier the agency was contacting passengers who were on a flight Oct. 13 from Cleveland to DFW Airport, but after interviewing those passengers, decided to reach out to the Oct. 10 flight as well.

At the airport Thursday, it was business as usual at Terminal E, where nurse Amber Joy Vinson arrived on the Oct. 13 flight.

Passengers didn’t appear to be overly concerned and weren’t altering travel plans.

Arlington resident Cynthia McKnight returned from Chicago on a Spirit Airlines flight on Thursday morning into Terminal E next to the Frontier operations.

“I was never worried,” McKnight said. “If I was worried, I wouldn’t have flown.”

Frank Walsh arrived on a flight from Puerto Vallerta for a business trip to Dallas and said he was not worried about traveling to the U.S. city where three cases of Ebola have been confirmed.

“I think my mom is more concerned than I am,” Walsh said. “It’s a real concern but I think it can’t stop you from making a living.”

Local travel agencies said that while Ebola is a topic of conversation, customers are not cancelling trips.

“No one is changing their plans at this point,” said Steve Cosgrove, owner of Dynamic Travel in Southlake. His agency also books safaris and trips to Africa for customers and he said those customers are usually experienced travelers who understand the risks of traveling to foreign countries.

Travel Leaders/Main St. Travel in Fort Worth has several agents that handle missionary travel and they have not had many questions or comments about Ebola, said president Terry Denton.

“We haven’t had any real negative impact on the business yet,” Denton said. “But we are very aware that we could, if the outbreak was to get worse.”

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts on Thursday, Delta Airlines chief executive Richard Anderson said bookings do not appear to be impacted by Ebola. Delta has the most flights to Africa of any U.S. carrier.

Most carriers have cancelled flights to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia in West Africa, where some 4,400 people have contracted the deadly virus.

“What’s worth noting is you really can’t catch Ebola on an airplane,” Anderson said.

That hasn’t stopped Frontier Airlines from giving the aircraft that carried Ebola-infected pasenger Amber Vinson a deep clean.

The Denver-based airline is removing all of the seat covers and carpets in the immediate vicinity of Vinson’s seat and will replace environmental filters. The aircraft is expected to be returned to service in the next few days.

“These steps were taken out of concern for the safety of our customers and employees,” said Frontier chief executive David Siegel in a letter sent to workers late last night.

Frontier has also placed two pilots and four flight attendants on paid leave for 21 days.

For business traveler Tom Latina, flying on Frontier from DFW back to his home in Denver was humorous.

“Will I be making a wisecrack to someone sitting next to me? Probably,” Latina said, noting that although the virus is a serious issue, it has become a punchline where he works. “We don’t call it Dallas anymore, we call it Ebola country.”

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This story was originally published October 16, 2014 8:20 PM.

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