American Airlines won’t allow flight attendants to wear masks. They also still give ‘points’ which count towards discipline and termination for a flight attendant who calls out sick unless they’ve actually tested positive for coronavirus.
Flight attendants with mild symptoms who haven’t flown internationally still report being ineligible for testing. And calling out sick when you aren’t is a firing offense.
A voicemail is making the rounds from this past Tuesday when a flight service manager called out a flight attendant for wearing a mask on a trip, and suggested they just ‘use sick time’. I’m not embedding audio to avoid identifying the manager.
This is [redacted] calling from Boston flight service at 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. ..I know you’ve got a trip this evening, I know it was brought to my attention that you did have a face mask on on your last trip. I just wanted to let you know that we can’t let you come to work with a face mask on. I understand concerns and everything but we can’t be having our flight attendants come to work with a face mask on. Like I said I totally understand what your concerns are. If you don’t feel comfortable coming to work without a face mask, you need to use your sick time or call out that’s totally understandable. I just wanted to let you know prior to coming in this evening as far as what the expectations are on our end.
Flight attendants walk past passengers, and provide assistance to passengers. I’ve written about flights catered without gloves earlier this month.
I reached out to American to ask if there was any relaxation of the airline’s uniform and appearance standards to allow flight attendants to better protect themselves. According to an American spokesperson,
Masks in-flight or in the terminal is not allowed. We are following CDC guidance: masks are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 for the general public.
I can see the argument for “masks should be reserved only for health care workers,” although flight attendants cannot possibly social distance at work (and neither can airport agents) even with current low load factors. Flight attendants may be at higher risk of exposure than nurses. Masks do two things.
- A flight attendant who has mild symptoms, or is pre-symptomatic, may spread the virus. A mask is a protection for passengers and other crewmembers.
- While air isn’t the virus’ primary method of transmission, it can be inhaled, and N95 masks to prevent most particles from entering a person’s mouth.
To be sure there are challenges wearing a mask. It has to be the right size. It should be changed with regularity. And you need to not touch your face with it on.
Alitalia began requiring that passengers wear masks as a condition of flying, in case the passenger was infected. It’s absurd not to allow employees coming into contact with passengers not to wear them at this point, even if the primary beneficiary is the passengers around them in case the crewmember is pre-symptomatic or mildly symptomatic.