Terrified flight attendants want unnecessary travel to stop

Apr 4, 2020 3:25 AM ET

The flight attendant spoke from a hospital bed and oxygen hoses came from her nose.

In an Instagram post, the young woman in black-framed glasses identified as April Rodriguez looked into the camera and asked her flight attendants to stop flying.

“It’s not worth it,” she said between deep breaths. “Forget your mortgage, forget your bills. Stay at home.”

As the outbreak of the corona virus continues to cause new casualties, frightened flight attendants, including some affected by the virus, are pushing airlines that have reduced capacity by up to 90% in recent weeks to further increase the number of flights reduce the spread of the deadly disease.

The video of Rodriguez, a JetBlue Airways flight attendant who tested positive for the corona virus, was released on March 23, almost a week after an American Airlines flight attendant, Paul Frishkorn, died in Philadelphia from COVID-19.

Approximately 150 flight attendants tested positive for the deadly virus, and hundreds more are in self-quarantine, according to Assn. of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents more than 50,000 flight attendants for 20 airlines.

Airline representatives state that airlines must notify employees if they may have worked with someone who has tested positive for the virus. But in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Line Pilots Assn. According to Bloomberg, some airlines have failed to follow the instructions from the disease control and prevention centers to notify workers.

To slow the spread of the virus, the flight attendants’ union wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday, calling on the agency to stop all recreational air travel and to restrict all passenger flights to essential services such as medical aid and first-aid flights, in hard-hit areas of the country .

Sara Nelson, President of Assn. The call to reduce flights is said to help slow down the spread of the virus and reduce the risk for flight attendants who are now worried about flying.

“We had to make it publicly clear that this is what we are asking because flight attendants are absolutely concerned,” she said in an interview.

The association also wants airlines to stop all aircraft catering services to reduce flight attendant-to-passenger contact and increase the amount of cleaning supplies to keep the aircraft sterile, Nelson said. Several airlines have already reduced or drastically reduced the food and beverage service.

The challenge is to protect flight crews from infection while ensuring that the aviation industry doesn’t collapse.

“We have never seen such a disturbance that pervades everyone,” said Nelson.

According to Airlines for America, a trading group of the country’s airlines, US airlines employ around 750,000 people.

The $ 2 trillion federal economic plan, which provides for about $ 50 billion for airlines, provides that airlines that want to grant money will continue to pay their employees’ salaries and serve the same goals as on March 1. Nelson believes that airlines can stop leisure travel and continue to meet the requirements for grant funding.

With the pandemic reaching over 1 million people worldwide, the crisis has become particularly stressful for workers who come into direct contact with the public and are at greater risk of contracting the virus. This includes medical service providers, police, fire brigade and flight personnel.

In New York, more than 1,400 police officers tested positive for the virus. According to state health offices in Ohio and Minnesota, up to 20% of people infected in these states are healthcare professionals.

The 65-year-old Frishkorn, flight attendant at American Airlines based in Philadelphia since 1997, was the first American Airlines employee to die from the virus, the airline said.

“He will be missed by the customers he has looked after and everyone at American who has worked with him,” the carrier said in a statement.

American Airlines said that the health and safety of its crew members are top priority, adding that the airline has adjusted its policies so that flight attendants can wear gloves and masks during all phases of the flight.

For flight attendants who are still flying, the death of Frishkorn only aggravates the dangers of a job that brings them close to passengers and colleagues.

Other flight attendants said they feel stressed about the likelihood of infection at work, but their main concern is passing the virus on to their families. All spoke on the condition that they could not be identified because they were instructed by their employers to direct all reporter questions to the airline communications departments.

“I even took steps to isolate myself from my significant other and my family when I’m home to avoid being exposed,” said a 10-year-old Delta Air Lines veteran.

Flight attendants say employers provide gloves, masks, and towels to sterilize their workplaces, while others say supplies are limited and running out.

A longtime flight attendant from American Airlines said she is waiting for the results of a coronavirus screening test this week after working in separate shifts with two other flight attendants who tested positive.

“Oh my god. We’re all scared,” said the flight attendant. “The level of stress is insane.”

She said she learned that she may have been exposed to the virus by other crew members and not by her employer. “I’m nervous,” she said. “I will not lie.”

The flight attendant said she was also frustrated that she had recently worked on a flight – and the risk of being exposed to the virus – that passengers traveling to Florida on vacation were attending.

“That makes me angry,” she said. “Why are you traveling right now?”

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