When flying on a plane, the flight attendants’ most important job is to help keep us safe in the event of an emergency. However, it appears that United flight attendants are sometimes being told to continue working and just “monitor for COVID symptoms” when a colleague has tested positive for coronavirus.
So much for our safety.
Three employees have told Reuters about the policy, one of which specifically said, “Most of us feel that’s unsafe.” Reuters, with access to a private online group for United flight attendants, also saw a dozen or so comments about the uncomfortableness the group members felt about potentially unsafe protocols the airline is using for quarantine and contact tracing.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) represents crew at 17 airlines, including United. They said they’ve received complaints from members about United because the airline hasn’t been isolating crew members who’ve worked with colleagues who have tested COVID positive.
When questioned, United said that, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on quarantines for “close contacts,” it does indeed tell some employees to keep working and just self-monitor for symptoms if they’ve been in close contact with a co-worker who is COVID positive.
The airline says it’s following the FAA’s bulletin called the Safety Alert for Operators. From Reuters:
The Nov. 4 bulletin on quarantines says the FAA and CDC recommend that crew members with known exposure to COVID-19 not work until 14 days after the last potential exposure.
It also cites CDC guidance that even if crew members show no symptoms, they should not be allowed to work since they cannot remove themselves if they develop symptoms.
It notes “the challenges involved in effectively isolating a symptomatic person on board an aircraft.”
Reuters also suggests that United’s questionable (my word, not theirs) practices about this are coming about after mass furloughs and layoffs that have caused staff shortages (they have about 60% fewer flight attendants than before COVID), as well as the airlines’ resumption of food and beverage service. Hot beverages are particularly an issue since besides removing masks to eat and drink, passengers also tend to blow on hot beverages to cool them off.
As per the AFA, Delta apparently had a few complaints from flight attendants regarding not being told to isolate after co-workers have been tested positive for the virus. American Airlines, on the other hand, removes all crew from service if they’ve been exposed to someone who has become infected.
It’s funny (not ha ha funny. Interesting funny) that this came up right after a report that an airline crew member was allowed to fly after receiving a positive COVID test result.
Frankly, I don’t understand why United would do this.
- The CDC says that if a passenger has, “been around someone with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 in the past 14 days (even if they did not have symptoms),” they shouldn’t travel. Why shouldn’t this be the case for flight attendants?
- It’s been explained over and over again how much spread happens through asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people, so to wait to see if a flight attendant shows symptoms means (s)he could be positive while flying is pretty reckless. And as much as every company and organization that wants people to fly touts how safe flying is, MIT even suggested that, “…while the HEPA filters used in commercial aviation can filter out 99.97% of virus-sized particles, they can’t capture every respiratory droplet or viral aerosol before someone else inhales it.”
Although Joe and I aren’t flying right now (it’s not just because of the risk of flying. It’s other things involved in travel, too), even when we did, we had made the decision to not fly on United anymore (here’s why). Add this to the list.
Feature Photo: United
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#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands #wearamask
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary