Association of Flight Attendants union president Sara Nelson, who has grown into one of the most powerful voices in aviation over the last year, told the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration that all non-essential flights should end immediately to help stem the growth of the deadly coronavirus.
Nelson, head of the largest flight attendants union in the country, spoke on a conference call set up by the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions.
More than 100 flight attendants have tested positive for COVID-19, several are in intensive care and nearly 1,000 sick and self-quarantined. coronavirus-related-death-of-flight-attendant.html” target=”_self” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>One died late last month.
“We are calling for a halt to all leisure travel,” Nelson coronavirus-halt-travel_n_5e8b6084c5b6cc1e4779ab67″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>said on the call. “We’re calling on a coordinated government response, we’re calling on all our airlines, and we’re also calling for leadership from DOT and FAA on advising the public that we do not need any leisure travel right now.”
The demand for travel has dropped dramatically, and the airlines, in turn, have cut service – in some cases up to 90 percent. But as part of the stimulus package signed into law by President Trump last month, airlines must maintain a minimum of service and keep flying.
That has resulted in some customers taking advantage of rock-bottom current prices – which included $32 round-trip cross-country tickets between Miami and Los Angeles on American Airlines into May – to either travel to vacation destinations where they are more than willing to self-quarantine for 14 days or to pad their frequent flier miles.
“We do not need to have any leisure travel at this time,” Nelson said. “In air travel, it’s impossible to social distance, and so crews need the flights that don’t need to be taking off to stay on the ground.”
NBC Bay Area, coronavirus/sick-flight-attendants-ask-regulators-to-ground-leisure-flights/2269217/” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>the television affiliate of NBC-Universal based in San Francisco, did a piece quoting several flight attendants from several different airlines who agreed with their union leader.
“What I would love to see is that nonessential flights are grounded. You know, we have a lot of planes going out there that have one passenger or sometimes even none. And it begs the question of why are we flying?” said one 20 year flight attendant veteran, who was not identified by the station.
Indeed, American Airlines just admitted that it flew nine flights out of New York City this past weekend that had just one passenger on each of the nine planes.
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New United CEO Scott Kirby Comes Out Firing
United Airlines’ Scott Kirby, who took over as CEO last week in the wake of Oscar Munoz’s retirement, is wasting no time establishing his authority.
Kirby cut 13 high-level executives in a cash-saving move on Friday as the coronavirus pandemic has throttled the industry financially. A day earlier, he told an online investor conference that the airline absolutely would not declare bankruptcy, and that he thought flying was safe enough to not block the middle seats on planes from being sold.
Well, he did build a reputation as an open – some might say abrasive – executive while at American Airlines.
Kirby is eliminating 13 of United’s 67 officer positions, all effective on Oct. 1. That’s the day after the restrictions on firing employees runs out per the federal government’s rules for airlines accepting billions of dollars in stimulus package grants and loans.
“While there are glimmers of good news in our July schedule — we expect to be down about 75% versus 90% right now — travel demand is still a very long way from where it was at the end of last year and the financial impact on our business remains severe,” United said in a written statement as reported by CNBC.
The cuts are in response to the loss of nearly 90 percent of business for United and all airlines, as the demand for travel has dropped dramatically compared to last year and beyond.
But Kirby defiantly said during the investor conference a day before that he has no plans for the airline to go bankrupt.
“Zero percent, no chance,” Kirby said. “It’s worse for shareholders. It’s worse for creditors. It’s worse for employees. It’s worse for every constituent that we have.”
To that end, Kirby also said he won’t sacrifice potential sales by blocking middle seats, as some airlines have done. As the blog The Points Guy noted, Kirby said the airline’s cleaning process, air circulation and a requirement for passengers and crew to wear face masks make it a safe experience.
“Airplanes don’t have social distancing — we’re not going to be six feet apart,” he said. “But an airplane environment is incredibly safe.”
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