A union which represents around 28,000 flight attendants at American Airlines stopped its crew from working a scheduled flight between Miami and Dallas Forth Worth on Sunday after learning that a group of cruise line passengers and employees were due to travel on the flight. The decision comes just over a day after flight attendants at United Airlines barred 135 Australian tourists from the COVID-19 stricken Zaandam cruise ship boarding a flight from San Francisco to Sydney.
On Friday, passengers from another Coronavirus affected cruise ship, the Coral Princess, were allowed to start disembarking the ship after it docked in Miami. So far, three passengers have died after contracting COVID-19 and at least seven passengers and five crew members have been confirmed to have the virus.
The Coral Princess had been stranded at sea since March 19 after being refused permission to dock in Buenos Aires but was permitted to return to the Port of Miami on Saturday. The cruise line chartered flights to repatriate some passengers to Australia and the United Kingdom, as well as California.
But a spokesperson for the cruise line said disembarkation of some guests would be delayed after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urgently changed its guidance in response to the threat posed by cruise line passengers and staffers travelling by air.
Banning cruise passengers from all regularly scheduled commercial flights, the CDC warned on Saturday that putting those holidaymakers on normal flights posed “a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage,” going on to say that “aggressive efforts” would be required to stop the spread of the virus from these passengers.
A group of passengers and crew had, however, already got off some of the cruise ships in Miami before the guidance from the CDC came into effect. “Understandably, the crews scheduled to work these flights were concerned for their safety,” a spokesperson for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants explained (APFA).
While some of the flight attendants did choose to voluntarily work the flight, the union granted a one-time exception for qualified Flight Service Managers to fill a number of vacant crew positions.
American said that a larger plane was scheduled to operate the flight to improve social distancing measures and personal protective equipment was given to all the crew operating on the flight.
Two weeks ago, the airline backtracked on a uniform policy that barred flight attendants from wearing face masks to help protect themselves from COVID-19. The reversal came after a flight service manager threatened to discipline a crew member who wore a surgical mask on a domestic flight. Since that incident, the CDC has issued guidance recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public settings where maintaining social distancing is difficult.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.