Update: Other Frontier Plane Taken By Symptomatic Ebola Patient Still Flying

The first Frontier plane that carried Amber Vinson landed in Denver again last night. Photos from 7News coverage.
The first Frontier plane that carried Amber Vinson landed in Denver again last night. Photos from 7News coverage.

It's yet another day bringing contradictions in previous reports about Ebola patient Amber Joy Vinson and her flights on Denver-based Frontier Airlines; see our earlier coverage below. At first, we were told she wasn't symptomatic on a return flight she took from Cleveland to Texas; then, after the aircraft on which she'd flown was taken out of service and warehoused in Denver for intensive cleaning, word arrived that she may have been exhibiting symptoms. And now, officials think symptoms could have been cropping up on her initial Frontier flight from Texas to Cleveland, as well -- and that plane is still in service, having flown in and out of Denver twenty-plus times over the past week. Meanwhile, Frontier is contacting as many as 750 passengers from additional flights in relation to Vinson's travels. Photos, video and details below.

See also: Spirit Airlines Sucks Hardest in New Complaints Survey, But Frontier's Gaining Fast

The plane that carried Vinson from Cleveland back to Texas remains warehoused in Denver.
The plane that carried Vinson from Cleveland back to Texas remains warehoused in Denver.

Yesterday, we noted that Frontier was contacting the passengers who'd been on the plane with Vinson from Cleveland to Texas -- flight 1143. But we added that there had been no word about whether the same was being done for passengers on five additional flights taken by the craft before it was taken out of service. Here's that list:

Frontier Flight 1104 departed Cleveland on Oct. 14 at 12:24 p.m. EDT and arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 3 p.m. EDT

Frontier Flight 1105 departed Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 14 at 4:02 p.m. EDT and arrived in Cleveland at 6:16 p.m. EDT

Frontier Flight 1101 departed Cleveland on Oct. 14 7:24 p.m. EDT and arrived in Atlanta at 9:03 p.m. EDT

Frontier Flight 1100 departed Atlanta on Oct. 14 at 10:12 p.m. EDT and arrived in Cleveland at 11:19 p.m. EDT

Frontier jet lands in Denver Wednesday afternoon and is taken to a Frontier maintenance hanger for further decontamination cleanup procedures.

Now, Frontier is belatedly reaching out to those individuals, as well as anyone who'd been on flight 1142 -- Vinson's first flight, on October 10 -- and flight 2042 from Dallas to Cleveland on October 14. That's seven total flights representing approximately 750 passengers.

The first plane on which Vinson flew landed in Denver at about 8:40 p.m. last night.
The first plane on which Vinson flew landed in Denver at about 8:40 p.m. last night.

As for the first Frontier plane that transported Vinson, 7News reports that it's been on more than two-dozen trips since last Friday, with many of them winding up in Denver. That means literally hundreds of passengers have been on the plane since Vinson's first flight -- a concerning number considering that doctors at the Centers for Disease Control now think early symptoms may have been starting to bubble up around then. In an effort to reassure those folks, Frontier spokesman Todd Lehmacher offered the following statement to the station:

Another look at the first Frontier plane that carried Vinson at Denver International Airport last night.
Another look at the first Frontier plane that carried Vinson at Denver International Airport last night.

"Aircraft '1' has been cleaned nine times. All cleanings have been consistent with CDC procedures. The CDC initially told us that this aircraft and flight were not a concern. The aircraft would no longer be contaminated as the customer first traveled six days ago (Oct. 10)."

Upcoming Events

To be clear: No passenger on any Frontier flight has been confirmed to have contracted Ebola or even to be symptomatic. But given the shifting information about when Vinson was starting to get sick and how infectious she might have been at various points, the airline is suddenly dealing with both an in-flux health situation and a public-relations challenge unlike any in its history.

Here's a 7News report featuring the latest developments, followed by coverage from the previous two days.

Continue to see two previous reports about Ebola's impact on Frontier Airlines flights and passengers, including photos and video.  

Photos of the Frontier plane in Denver from 7News coverage. More images and a video below.
Photos of the Frontier plane in Denver from 7News coverage. More images and a video below.

Update, 5:38 a.m. October 16: Yesterday, when news broke that a second healthcare worker who'd contracted the Ebola virus in Texas had flown on a Frontier Airlines flight shortly before being admitted for treatment (see our previous coverage below), the connection to Denver was at least somewhat abstract; Frontier is based here. Now, however, the tie is much more direct. The actual plane on which patient Amber Joy Vinson traveled is now in the Mile High City for disinfection -- and recent reports contradict original claims that she wasn't symptomatic on the flight. Photos, a video and more details below.

The plane seen a few hours before its arrival in Denver.
The plane seen a few hours before its arrival in Denver.

The full press release originally shared by Frontier is on the second page of this post -- but here's an excerpt:

At approximately 1:00 a.m. MT on October 15, Frontier was notified by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] that a customer traveling on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13 has since tested positive for the Ebola virus. The flight landed in Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:16 p.m. local and remained overnight at the airport having completed its flying for the day at which point the aircraft received a thorough cleaning per our normal procedures which is consistent with CDC guidelines prior to returning to service the next day. It was also cleaned again in Cleveland last night. Previously the customer had traveled from Dallas Fort Worth to Cleveland on Frontier flight 1142 on October 10.

Amber Joy Vinson.
Amber Joy Vinson.

The release added this observation: "Customer exhibited no symptoms or sign of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew."

Now, however, this assertion has been contradicted by a letter sent to Frontier employees by the firm's CEO, Dave Siegel. It reads:

"At 1:55 p.m. MDT (Wednesday) Frontier was notified by the CDC that the passenger may have been symptomatic earlier than initially suspected; including the possibility of possessing symptoms while onboard the flight.

"In light of the new information, Frontier determines that the aircraft will remain out of service and ferries it back to Denver from Cleveland without customers. The flight departs at 6:20 p.m. EDT and arrives in Denver at 7:20 p.m. MDT. In an abundance of caution, it is determined that the aircraft will receive a fourth cleaning since the infected customer was onboard. Though not required, this cleaning will consist of the removal of seat covers and carpets in the immediate vicinity of the passenger seat. The airline will also change the environmental filters onboard.

"NOTE: These extraordinary actions went beyond CDC recommendations. These steps were taken out of concern for the safety of our customers and employees. Steps such as removing the aircraft from service, removing aircraft seat covers and carpet and replacing environmental filters as well as placing the crew on paid leave were not requested nor mandated by the CDC. Frontier expects that the aircraft will return to service in a few days."

The tail of the plane.
The tail of the plane.

Before the plane returns to service, the airline would be well advised to change the artwork on its tail -- an image of a shark, a creature that, thanks to the movie Jaws, is associated by many Americans with mindless death. You can bet plenty of customers will have seen it on the plane in question thanks to coverage like this and will be nervous about boarding the plane despite the extraordinary clean-up efforts.

Meanwhile, the crew members on the plane will reportedly take the next 21 days off with pay as a precaution, and passengers on flight 1143 are being asked to contact the CDC so their condition can be monitored. No word about whether something similar is being done for those who flew on one of five additional flights taken by the plane before it was pulled from service. Here's a listing of those trips, from 7News coverage:

Frontier Flight 1104 departed Cleveland on Oct. 14 at 12:24 p.m. EDT and arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 3 p.m. EDT

Frontier Flight 1105 departed Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 14 at 4:02 p.m. EDT and arrived in Cleveland at 6:16 p.m. EDT

Frontier Flight 1101 departed Cleveland on Oct. 14 7:24 p.m. EDT and arrived in Atlanta at 9:03 p.m. EDT

Frontier Flight 1100 departed Atlanta on Oct. 14 at 10:12 p.m. EDT and arrived in Cleveland at 11:19 p.m. EDT

Frontier jet lands in Denver Wednesday afternoon and is taken to a Frontier maintenance hanger for further decontamination cleanup procedures.

The plane landing in Denver.
The plane landing in Denver.

Meanwhile, the CDC is now admitting that it erred when advising Vinson that she could fly home to Texas even after she began running a low-grade fever -- and other healthcare workers who worked with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man whose Ebola infection led to his death, are being told that they can't taken similar flights until after the three-week period for symptoms to crop up has passed.

As you'll see in the 7News report, the crew that flew on the plane to Denver did not appear to be wearing any unusual protective gear -- although one person is said to have donned gloves. Take a look at the package here, followed by our previous coverage.

Continue to see our previous coverage of Amber Joy Vinson's Frontier flight, including the initial company statement.  

Update: Other Frontier Plane Taken By Symptomatic Ebola Patient Still Flying

Original post, 11:20 a.m. October 15: Frontier, which proudly proclaims itself to be Denver's hometown airline, has had more than a few rough patches this year: Note its poor performance in not one but two customer complaint reports.

But the attention these surveys received pales in comparison to the latest news: Amber Joy Vinson, the second healthcare worker confirmed to have contracted the Ebola virus, took a Frontier flight the day before she notices symptoms of the virus.

No, she didn't come to Denver. She flew from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to what Frontier describes as one of its "focus" destinations: Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport.

Update: Other Frontier Plane Taken By Symptomatic Ebola Patient Still Flying

Here's the statement issued by Frontier in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shorthanded as CDC:

"At approximately 1:00 a.m. MT on October 15, Frontier was notified by the CDC that a customer traveling on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13 has since tested positive for the Ebola virus. The flight landed in Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:16 p.m. local and remained overnight at the airport having completed its flying for the day at which point the aircraft received a thorough cleaning per our normal procedures which is consistent with CDC guidelines prior to returning to service the next day. It was also cleaned again in Cleveland last night. Previously the customer had traveled from Dallas Fort Worth to Cleveland on Frontier flight 1142 on October 10.

"Customer exhibited no symptoms or sign of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew. Frontier responded immediately upon notification from the CDC by removing the aircraft from service and is working closely with CDC to identify and contact customers who may traveled on flight 1143.

"Customers who may have traveled on either flight should contact CDC at 1 800 CDC-INFO.

"The safety and security of our customers and employees is our primary concern. Frontier will continue to work closely with CDC and other governmental agencies to ensure proper protocols and procedures are being followed."

Nina Pham and Thomas Eric Duncan.
Nina Pham and Thomas Eric Duncan.

As you know, Thomas Eric Duncan died of Ebola in a Texas hospital last week after traveling to the U.S. from Liberia, where the virus has killed a concerning number of people. Another healthcare worker, Nina Pham, was subsequently diagnosed with the malady; she's said to be in good condition and is responding to treatment.

The CDC has also offered a statement about Vinson's Frontier flight, stressing her lack of symptoms while flying -- and experts are confident Ebola can only be transmitted by direct contact with a symptomatic person's bodily fluids or contact with contaminated items. Here the CDC release:

On the morning of Oct. 14, the second healthcare worker reported to the hospital with a low-grade fever and was isolated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that the second healthcare worker who tested positive last night for Ebola traveled by air Oct. 13, the day before she reported symptoms.

Because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning, CDC is reaching out to passengers who flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth Oct. 13.

CDC is asking all 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on October 13 (the flight route was Cleveland to Dallas Fort Worth and landed at 8:16 p.m. CT) to call 1 800-CDC INFO (1 800 232-4636). After 1 p.m. ET, public health professionals will begin interviewing passengers about the flight, answering their questions, and arranging follow up. Individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.

The healthcare worker exhibited no signs or symptoms of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew. Frontier is working closely with CDC to identify and notify passengers who may have traveled on flight 1143 on Oct. 13. Passengers who may have traveled on flight 1143 should contact CDC at 1 800-CDC INFO (1 800 232-4636).

For more information about Ebola, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.


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