Ground all leisure flights. That’s what should happen next, according to the head of the powerful flight attendants union. Sara Nelson, the leader of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), said “a halt to all leisure travel” is needed to protect airline workers from the coronavirus. The AFA-CWA is the country’s largest union, representing 20 airlines and 50,000 members.
What Exactly Would a Halt to All Leisure Travel Accomplish?
In a recent Huffington Post story, Nelson said that more than 100 flight attendants have tested positive for the virus, and one person has died. Nelson stated that close to 1,000 flight attendants were in self-quarantine.
Nelson and other union representatives want government agencies to support a ban on leisure travel as “hot spots” around the country struggle to test and treat those affected by COVID-19. As we might imagine, flight attendants are particularly vulnerable because they are in close contact with passengers, some of whom could be spreading the virus.
Photo credit: Yuri Smityuk via Getty Images
Adding to the problem, some airlines are having trouble keeping up with demand for protective equipment and supplies. “We’ve had personal protective equipment issues and supply chain issues, where our airlines are actually not able to get the supplies to get on our planes,” Nelson said.
In addition to flight attendants, other Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees are also testing positive, including air traffic controllers. Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said, “Unfortunately as they’re going to work they are being exposed.”
In addition, more than 50 pilots have been stood down because of exposure to crew testing positive for COVID-19.
Both airline personnel and travelers are frustrated. By now we’re all well aware that the pandemic has led to a sharp drop in demand for air travel, resulting in airline industry layoffs. And for travelers who still need to fly, they are facing cancelled flights and the offer to exchange their tickets for travel at a later date.
While the proposed airline bailout package requires airlines to provide ‘essential’ domestic flights, the AFA-CWA claims that a more severe halt to leisure travel is essential.
Nelson didn’t define “leisure travel” so maybe we need to define that for ourselves. As Nelson said, “In air travel, it’s impossible to social distance.” I can only think by now many, if not all of us, have already put a halt to our leisure travel. I know I sure have. Do you take issue with the flight attendants call to halt all leisure travel?
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