Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants and a rising, powerful force in the American labor movement, has slammed federal agencies, claiming they have shown a disorganized response, and need to do more to contain the deadly coronavirus, Rich Thomaselli of Travel Pulse reported.
“This can’t be solved by private industry alone, or workers, or unions,” Nelson said on a media briefing call. “Our government must deploy a coordinated response to prevent spread, treat those infected and provide resources and information for workers and the general public.”
Nelson represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, including those at United Airlines which, along with American and Delta, have all canceled flights to Hong Kong because of the outbreak, the report said.
Nelson and Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers who was also on the call, said the federal government is only offering a “piecemeal approach” to battling the virus.
She praised the airlines for being more proactive, even if it had to include suspending routes to China.
“Each carrier is currently determining individual policies regarding travel and it really would be much more helpful if the Department of Transportation issued consistent guidelines,” Nelson said.
“They need to convene work groups that include stakeholders and relevant departments, especially the Department of Transportation, Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, FEMA, and the CDC, to coordinate delivery of recommendations, guidance, and materials.”
Meanwhile, USA Today reported that the same union is asking Hawaiian Airlines to allow its crew to go the extra mile when protecting against coronavirus.
The Association of Flight Attendants is asking the airline to allow flight attendants to wear masks on flights to and from Asia, the report said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that face masks should be used for airline crew members when they “are helping sick travelers with respiratory symptoms such as coughing or sneezing.”
They’re also advised for sick travelers and those sitting near sick travelers. The CDC’s recommendations related to the new coronavirus reiterate using protective equipment when tending to a sick traveler, including face mask, eye protection, disposable gloves and a gown to cover clothing, the report said.
“The CDC only recommends the use of masks when assisting a passenger who may be showing symptoms of being ill,” Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex da Silva said. “We always carry masks and gloves onboard our aircraft as part of our standard medical kits, which are reserved for use when warranted.”
“Hawaiian must allow and provide masks and gloves to flight attendants during this outbreak, at the very least on flights to and from Asia,” Taylor Garland, spokesperson for AFA-CWA, told USA Today.
The airline does not fly to mainland China but does have Asia flights.