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KCI prepared for possible plane quarantine

Posted at 11:26 AM, Sep 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-05 12:26:09-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If a potentially catastrophic health emergency happened on a flight bound for Kansas City International Airport, the fact that the airport and health department are both under city control would streamline the decision-making process.

It’s not uncommon for flights to divert to airports across the country, including KCI, when a passenger becomes ill or suffers a heart attack, but a KCI spokesman said he’s not aware of any incident requiring an entire plane to be quarantined.

An inbound plane from Dubai with 500 passengers aboard was quarantined by federal health officials Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Initial reports indicated as many as 100 passengers were ill, but Emirates Airlines issued a statement that “about 10 passengers … were taken ill.”

Could it happen at KCI? Anything’s possible, but KCI Marketing Manager Joe McBride said he can’t recall a similar incident in the airport’s history.

“When we had issues with SARS, we’d deal with the occasional sick passenger, but we never had to quarantine a whole plane,” McBride said.

McBride said it wouldn’t be the airport’s call about quarantining a plane anyway. 

If a pilot raised health concerns aboard a Kansas City-bound flight that were communicated with the KCI tower or airline, McBride said officials would contact the KCMO Health Department for advice.

It’s possible the Health Department would, in turn, reach out to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the airport would defer to local health officials for guidance.

“We would keep the airplane from coming to the gate if there was reason for concern,” McBride said.

He said it’s probably a larger concern for inbound flights from international destinations, which accounts for the actions taken at JFK, but it’s something to be aware of with KCI ramping up its international presence.

After decades with few international flights, aside from a flight to Toronto and seasonal flights to Mexico, KCI added direct flights to Europe this year by reaching an agreement with Icelandair for service to Reykjavik.

Flights from Kansas City to Iceland’s capital were scheduled from May to September, and officials with the city and airline will meet later this month to discuss the 2019 schedule.

When completed, a new terminal also may increase KCI’s international presence.