Just as airline passengers are at risk of contracting COVID-19, so too are crew members. Of the 28,000 American Airlines flight attendants represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), at least 100 have been diagnosed with coronavirus so far.
Meanwhile, a local union representing flight attendants for Texas-based Southwest Airlines reports that at least 600 of its members have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The safety and well-being of Southwest’s employees and customers is our uncompromising priority, and Southwest continues to implement measures to maintain our aircraft cabins, airport locations, and work centers to the highest cleanliness standards, including following all CDC guidelines, during this unprecedented time,” said a representative from the airline. “Currently, far less than 1 percent of more than 60,000 Southwest Airlines employees have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Airlines have dramatically cut back on service in the last few weeks, leaving many flight attendants without work. Those who are still working say necessary supplies such as latex gloves and antibacterial wipes are scarce or, worse, missing altogether.
"Although extra supplies have been promised to us, they aren't showing up on the plane every time. Sometimes the extra box of gloves is there, sometimes not. Sometimes 2-3 containers of sanitary wipes are provided, sometimes none. Sometimes there are no gloves at all," according to one American Airlines flight attendant speaking anonymously to Business Insider.
Related: What the CARES Act Means Travelers
Late last month, a Philadelphia-based American Airlines flight attendant, Paul Frishkorn, 65, became the first crew fatality of COVID-19. And on Monday, the Transport Workers Union announced the death of a second flight attendant, New York Kennedy-based Ralph Gismondi, 68, who worked for JetBlue.
At a time when most essential workers are being celebrated by the public for their bravery, some flight attendants report being mistreated or even shunned because of their jobs.
“I feel like a leper now, like people look at us like the nastiest things that walk the earth while other essential employees get praise (which is very much deserved!) I’m not feeling so great today emotionally and not feeling very proud to be a flight attendant,” said one veteran crew member in the Washington Post.