BIA passengers claim they were left in dark over swine flu crisis
Passengers arriving in Birmingham from Mexico claimed they had been kept in the dark over the swine flu crisis.
Nearly 300 holidaymakers arrived at Birmingham International Airport yesterday, with some suggesting the Mexican authorities were trying to keep the extent of the outbreak quiet.
The Thomson flight TOM578 from Cancun touched down at 8.30am, with doctors and nurses waiting to check on the health of the passengers and offer help to anyone feeling unwell.
Everyone on the flight was asked if they had any flu symptoms and all confirmed they were feeling well.
Passengers who were met by a crowd of journalists, said they were surprised at the level of media coverage after they were told very little about the virus while in Mexico.
Jo Hodgkinson, from Sheldon, said she knew nothing about the outbreak until the airport transfer for the flight back to Birmingham.
She said: “Nothing has really happened, we weren’t told anything in Mexico. No-one asked us if we were feeling unwell. We weren’t given any information.”
Ken Roberts, from Henley Green, Coventry, said: “It’s not affected us at all. I didn’t know about it until I watched BBC 24.
“When we went to Cancun Airport there was only about ten people in masks. Nobody warned us at the hotel, we were never given any precautions to take.”
Sally McGrath, aged 38, from Nottingham, believes the Mexican authorities are trying to downplay the seriousness of the outbreak.
She said: “We weren’t told anything from the authorities while we were in Mexico. The first we knew was when friends and family texted us to ask if we were OK.
“It was quite strange really, to find out what has actually been happening. I think they authorities over there have tried to keep a lid on the situation.”
A passenger on another incoming flight from Mexico was treated by medics at Manchester Airport.
An expert on air travel at Birmingham University said the swine flu outbreak was potentially very serious given how quickly it has been able to spread.
Dr Pat Hanlon, an expert in transport economics at the University of Birmingham’s Business School, said: “The most striking thing is the speed at which it has been transmitted over huge distances. It was only a few days ago it was actually identified as being an outbreak in Mexico. Very shortly after that we were hearing of cases in New Zealand, Europe, America and now there are 23 suspected cases in Scotland.
“Air travel has played a large role in that.
“In previous major pandemics people weren’t flying around quite so readily and it took longer for the flu to take hold.
“The fact it is spreading so quickly means if it does turn out to be serious then it is going to be a huge problem for health authorities to counteract.”
He said it was reassuring to know passengers returning to Birmingham from Mexico were being checked over.
“Measures like this have to be put in place to minimise and mitigate against this wretched disease spreading,” he said.
Last night Britons were warned to avoid all but essential travel to Mexico as world health officials said the deadly swine flu virus can no longer be contained.
Flights on Thomson Airways, involving those booked on packages with tour operators Thomson and First Choice, were suspended up to and including May 8. Thomas Cook Airlines, who take Thomas Cook and Airtours holidaymakers to Mexico, suspended flights for the next seven days.