Flight Crew Scatters After Fellow Crewmember Tests Positive For Covid-19, Should They All Quarantine?fter A Flight Attendant Tests Positive For Covid-19?

In my home town schools are back in person, at least for those families that want to send their kids.
While data on school re-openings in the U.S. seems to show little linkage to super spreader events, I worry that they may not be taking sufficient precautions.
If a student tests positive for Covid-19, they have to stay home. But if they have a sibling in the school system, that other child is probably being exposed on an ongoing basis. Yet that kid keeps going to school.

In general those with significant close contact to people who have tested positive for the virus are supposed to quarantine. There are exceptions for certain essential personnel.

There’s no shortage of flight attendants, though, in a world where airlines are operating only half of their flights. United and American have furloughed thousands. So why aren’t flight attendants exposed to people positive with the virus quarantining?

A London-based flight attendant who worked United Airlines flight UA15 from London Heathrow to Newark on Tuesday tested positive for Covid-19. That flight attendant quarantined at an airport hotel.

As I understand it the 8 London crew were supposed to work United flight UA829 from Newark to Mumbai the next day. They were taken off that four-day trip. The next day, I’m told, four of the eight tried to deadhead back to London Heathrow the next day but the flight’s Captain refused to carry them as passengers. So they traveled back on Thursday. Others pass rode back to Europe.

I asked United why passengers from the flight weren’t notified of their exposure and why the other flight attendants were allowed to deadhead back to Heathrow rather than quarantining themselves?

According to United,

The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures as part of a multi-layered approach to create a safer travel environment. We follow the direction of governmental health authorities, including the CDC, who make the determination whether or not to contact anyone who was in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Flying seems to represent minimal risk (though perhaps airports themselves are greater risk) and a majority of people who test positive for the virus don’t seem to spread it – a small percentage, perhaps 10% – 20%, are responsible for 80% of cases. And had the Captain accepted these flight attendants the next day they probably wouldn’t have been infectious even if they’d caught the virus the previous day. Nonetheless I’d expect passengers would be concerned to know they were traveling with airline employees who had been exposed to the virus on a prior trip.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t know why you are spreading fear. 90+% of PCR tests are false positives. This is well known now. Sweden has already proven that their way is the right way and the rest of us are just practicing medical theatre.

  2. @robbo – Obviously this is why the USA is the only place in the world with a covid problem. If only we were enlightened and progressive like Europe who had *checks notes* almost twice as many cases yesterday.

  3. The politicization of this is going to go down in American history. Republicans are encouraged not to wear masks while Democrats are. The only practical reason I can think of is quite nefarious. I have inside information that 6 COVID-19 patients died in an Orlando hospital within an hour last week after trying an experimental drug that’s normally used for erectile dysfunction (it’s sponsored by a Swiss company and was developed by US-Israeli lab and starts with the letter ‘A’). What if the Republicans are purposefully trying to encourage people to attend super spreader events like the World Series to get them infected so they can have guinea pigs for their vaccines?

  4. Per the CDC exposure to Covid is defined as being within 6 feet of a Covid Positive patient for 15 minutes -This definition was recently amended to a cumulative total of 15 minutes bases on a single case of a 20 year old prison guard who tested positive after exposure to Covid positive inmates- none of whom he was in that proximity to for 15 minutes but total time with all positive inmates was 17 minutes. I question the wisdom of changing a whole policy based on the experience of one 20 year old prison guard-who certainly could of had an exposure that wasn’t related to his guard duties- but that is what it is now.

    In the case of the United flight it’s likely the crew did not meet the definition of contact exposure So no need for the airline to notify anyone.

  5. Gary when United gives you a boilerplate non-answer to your question like they did here you need to call them out for it; at the very least state that United didn’t answer the question. The last thing you should be doing is passing it on verbatim without classifying it for what it was.

  6. @Douglas Swalen – it’s obvious what it is, at least obvious enough for you to comment on it, isn’t it stronger and clearer if i let it speak for itself?

  7. @Gary – it would be more effective if you’d call United out specifically.

    There would be no way for United to get away with their lame reply (they’re hoping this disappears – don’t let them)

  8. I’m with @VX_Flier. Letting the stupid and inane statement speak for itself isn’t enough in this case. Sometimes you have to call BS and this sure seems like one of those times. United is acting in a contemptible fashion and deserves more than harsh words but that’s what we have to work with right now.

  9. Yet another reason why I do not trust United, even though I live in a United hub. I haven’t flown inn 2020, and I doubt I’ll fly in 2021. When I do fly next, I doubt it will be on United.

  10. Ok Gary. We all love your typos but that title is a bridge too far. I feel like I’ve had a stroke! 😉

  11. This gives new meaning to the term dead heading. I don’t think I’l ever look at non revs plunking down in the empty middle seat next to me in quite the same way again.

  12. Man Ki. Sweden has proven that their policies have resulted in more deaths than any of their neighboring countries adjusting for population. The Economist and other publications have analyzed the data repeatedly and not come to the conclusion that there is anything to emulate. Note also that over time the “Swedish Model” has been adjusted to become much more restrictive.

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