Immediate Operational Actions to Stop Spread of COVID-19

Immediate Operational Actions to Stop Spread of COVID-19

AFA continues to call on government to coordinate response and resources to stop spread of COVID-19. This list is specific to the coronavirus, based on decades of experience detailed in AFA’s Communicable Disease Checklist >

We highlight the following specific operational items for immediate action:

Mounting Hand Sanitizer Dispensers in Galleys and Near Lavatories

The most important action taken to mitigate the risk of transmission of a communicable disease is frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers with 60% (or more) alcohol content. AFA calls on the government to provide a blanket exemption for onboard storage and use of appropriate quantities of these products, with secure mounting and provision of alcohol-based sanitizer bottles in galleys and near lavatories for use by Flight Attendants and passengers. This requires approval by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This will also help blunt supply chain challenges as personal size plastic bottles of hand sanitizer are no longer available.

We encourage airlines to coordinate a request from the industry for this approval from the agency. The good news is that the FAA already conducted a 2010 FAA Tech Center Study “Flammability Test of Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer." The study was conducted in response to hand sanitizers being used near lavatories onboard aircraft to mitigate the spread of H1N1. See the last sentence of the summary on page 9. “From the tests conducted, burning hand sanitizer does not pose any significant risk to commercial transport airplane fire safety, given the present cabin material flammability requirements.”

Recommended Operational Actions for Airlines

The following recommendations, organized under the categories of Equipment, Service, Education, and Worker Support, are more direct and fulsome than lacking CDC occupational guidelines. Airlines and the industry, not all consistently, have implemented some of these recommendations. In general, the industry has far exceeded government instruction, but a coordinated, thorough response from our government is what is needed. We will continue to press for the best procedures to be put in place as soon as possible, both private and public.

NOTE: Where we have seen movement or implementation by airlines, we have starred (*) the recommendation.


  • * Allow Flight Attendants to wear non-latex, powder free gloves at any time while on duty.
  • Ensure all aircraft meet the federal requirements for access to soap and running water. Eliminate occurrences of inoperative lavatory water systems. (No MEL of lav water systems).
  • Add quick temperature gauges to aircraft equipment. (Supply chain issues)
  • Stock sanitizing wipes for cleaning surfaces.
  • * Provide passengers with sani-wipes approved for use on our A/C surfaces and on human skin. (Some supply chain challenges)
  • Include N95 masks in the universal precaution kits and provide for adequate education for their use when dealing with a passenger suspected of having a communicable disease
  • Make universal precaution kits and hand sanitizer required items (MEL Category A Items – within 24 hours max).
  • Make surgical masks available to passengers and crew so that those who wear masks reduce the risk of spreading disease. Masks should be provided to passengers coughing or sneezing onboard.
  • For any volunteer medical personnel assisting with medical situations, provide an adequate supply of medical gloves and masks that are determined appropriate protection by the CDC and/or WHO.
  • Ensure each flight has one universal precaution kit for every Flight Attendant on duty plus two additional kits for intervening healthcare personnel. Universal precaution kits should include all items specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as follows:
    • Dry powder that can convert small liquid spills into a sterile granulated gel
    • Germicidal disinfectant for surface cleaning
    • Skin wipes
    • Face/eye mask (separate or combined)
    • Gloves (disposable)
    • Protective apron
  • Provide a leak-resistant airsick bag that is immediately available for each passenger.
  • Make all of the above stated supplies no-go items (required for aircraft dispatch).

Passenger Service

  • * Waive ticketing change fees for passengers who are symptomatic.
  • * Eliminate water walks until we have equipment or product (individual water bottles) for the most sanitary delivery.
  • * Require that there be no placement of contaminated items in the same cart as unused service items.
  • * Change to provide only disposable cups in business/first class.
  • * Discontinue hot towels in First/Business and replace with sani-wipes. (supply chain challenges for sani-wipes).
  • * Discontinue the onboard sorting (recycling) of used service items and provide instruction for garbage collection and storage.
  • Require airlines to follow CDC recommended guidelines for cleaning aircraft and any contaminated areas after a flight with a sick traveler who may have a communicable disease, including protection and training for the aircraft cleaners. Review aircraft cleaning guidelines and ask for audit information by showing adherence levels. Provide better means for crew to submit aircraft cleaning feedback for flights.
  • * Enhance cleaning procedures for aircraft which carried a passenger with known or suspected contagion. Confirm Infectious Disease cleaning procedures with Fleet Service to ensure proper procedures are followed.
  • Develop realistic procedures and/or engineering controls for isolating symptomatic passengers if the incident aircraft is too full to permit isolating an unoccupied radius around the symptomatic individual(s) consistent with WHO and/or CDC recommendations.
  • Require pre-flight briefings to communicate the use of universal precaution procedures and equipment to prevent exposure on a flight and to review guidance in the event that a passenger exhibits signs or symptoms of infectious disease during a flight.
  • Require TSA and screening contractors to ensure that airport screening areas and equipment are appropriately sanitized at all times. 


  • Develop and provide airport and onboard announcements about enhancing health precautions with medical recommendations from physicians (ie. Sneeze or cough please use tissues, cough into elbow, etc.), as well as any other changes made to service to provide a safer environment for all passengers.
  • Airports can amplify public health announcements.
  • Provide Flight Attendants a briefing refresh on assessing passengers for COVID-19 and the proper onboard response to suspect or identified cases.
  • Develop employee education on safe food and beverage handling – make available by CBT and include in briefings.

Worker Support

  • * Make appropriate accommodations for those who have, or live with those who have, compromised immune systems or are pregnant.
  • * Provide comprehensive financial and emotional support following incidents that involve infected or quarantined employees.
    • Immediately lock-down crew names, similar to an airline incident/accident.
    • Immediately contact the union leadership with the names, cell phone numbers, current locations, and in-sheltering locations of impacted crewmembers.
    • Coordinate with the crewmember union leadership around any issues related to care and protection of the crew.
    • Immediately remove crew with pay and benefits for the entire disease incubation period.
    • Within 8 hours of knowledge of a communicable disease exposure incident, the company and union will implement the communications plan.
    • Provide all resources necessary to safely in-shelter the crewmembers during the incubation period; for example, safe and secure location with meals and medical supplies provided, including, but not limited to, thermometers for self-monitoring and protective masks.
    • Cover all medical costs related to potential exposure, including, but not limited to, tests, doctor visits, and medications.
    • Once the in-sheltering period is over, provide transportation to each crewmember’s choice of base or home.
    • Provide an external (non-airline employee) mental health professional who can make daily confidential telephonic wellness calls to the in-sheltering crewmember. Crewmembers may accept or decline calls at their own discretion.
  • * Ensure that all employees are aware that no discipline is associated with utilizing sick leave during the period of increased threat from pandemic.

Government Lead Medical Assessment and Resource Collection 

AFA also calls on the government specifically to initiate the following actions to support disease prevention efforts:

Frontline Employee Protection Against Transmission

CDC should conduct research into the potential for transmission of the virus by asymptomatic persons. Until these risks are properly understood and quantified, CDC and FAA should require airlines to provision and allow the use of and proper training in the use of respirators and gloves by all public-facing employees (as well as cabin cleaners) on airplanes coming in and out of countries with local transmission as verified by CDC (such as most recently, Japan and Hong Kong).

FAA should require stocking of Enhanced Universal Precautions Kits for flight attendants (i.e., ones that include non-latex surgical gloves and N95 or better respirators) on all relevant flights.

National Storage Repository

There should be a national storage repository for pandemic-related personal protective equipment (gloves, masks, etc.) and other associated products (like hand sanitizers) for all front-line health care and public-facing transportation and government (e.g., CBP) workers.

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