Flight Attendants Press for Occupational Actions to Combat COVID-19

Washington, D.C. (March 3, 2020) — The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA) is pressing for immediate operational actions to stop the spread of COVID-19. AFA President Sara Nelson released the following statement: 

"Flight Attendants know the aircraft cabin better than anyone. We have concrete actions detailed for the government and airlines to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“Pandemic response requires scientific focus, government-led coordination of public, private, stakeholder resources, with good and frequent information for the public and those on the frontlines. Flight Attendants and other workers in transportation industries are on the front lines of this outbreak. Our union has decades of experience with combating the spread of communicable disease. We put this experience together with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic to recommend specific occupational actions related to equipment, passenger service, education, and worker support. These actions seek to mitigate the spread of the disease by air travel and ensure the public and crews can continue to fly safely and with confidence.

“As we have consistently done in recent months, we urge this administration to immediately provide clear, universal guidance across the sector to protect aviation workers and travelers, and to protect public confidence in our aviation system. In the absence of guidance from the White House and the Department of Transportation, we are also calling on the airlines and the industry as a whole to adopt common-sense measures. 

Our recommendations include:

  1. Mounting hand sanitizer stations in airports and on planes.
  2. Making appropriate universal precaution kits available on all flights.
  3. Encourage passengers and crew to avoid travel while sick by removing financial or any other penalties for altering plans or work schedules.
  4. Requiring CDC-recommended guidelines for aircraft cleaning.
  5. Covering all medical costs and lost wages for aviation workers who are exposed in the course of work.

"One month ago, our union joined the American Federation of Teachers in calling on the administration to produce a comprehensive, coordinated plan to address this crisis. As nurses, teachers, and flight attendants, we called for action to protect the people in our care: patients, students, and passengers. This administration has yet to produce such a plan, and the steps they have taken to date have failed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

"Our focus is on preventing community spread, treating those infected expeditiously and compassionately, and providing workers like Flight Attendants with the resources and support to ensure our safety and that of our passengers. The threat of this pandemic is a real time reality check that the government must provide essential services for the public. Safety, health, and security cannot be pushed to private industry to manage and maintain. Even the best-meaning companies simply do not have the capability to provide an infrastructure that protects all people – and very literally a communicable disease reminds us that an injury to one is an injury to all. A free society provides a government that protects people equally. 

“We call on the White House to issue universal guidance, and will continue working with our employers and partners across aviation and other sectors to establish systems in the absence of federal leadership."


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, (AFA) AFL-CIO represents 50,000 Flight Attendants at 20 airlines. AFA is the union that has advanced the Flight Attendant profession for 74 years, beating back discrimination and improving wages, benefits, working conditions, and aviation safety, health and security in the aircraft cabin. AFA also partners with the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afacwa.org.

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