A veteran Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant has died of complications linked to COVID-19 after attending a two-day training event at the airline’s headquarters in Honolulu where at least 15 flight attendants were infected with the novel Coronavirus. Jeff Kurtzman, a Los Angeles-based flight attendant who joined Hawaiian Airlines in 1986 fell victim to the virus after contracting COVID-19 in early June.
According to an internal memo sent by Hawaiian’s chief executive Peter Ingram, the much-loved flight attendant died on Tuesday in California. Kurtzman was “well known to his In-Flight colleagues for his passion for discovering new places, people and cultures and was admired for his terrific sense of humor and knack for easy conversation,” Ingram wrote in the memo.
“He embodied the values of aloha and Malama that we hold dear,” Ingram continued in the heartfelt email.
At least 15 Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after attending a two-day annual training event at the airline’s headquarters. The mandatory annual training involved close contact between flight attendants but at the time, Hawaiian Airlines did not make participants wear face masks.
While classroom activities involved strict social distancing between students and instructors, there was also close contact between flight attendants in airplane mockups and during First Aid training activities according to sources quoted by local media. Emergency training involved shouting at close proximity to other flight attendants.
One source claims several flight attendants arrived at the event already “feeling under the weather”.
“Our Flight Attendant union is heartbroken with the loss of our flying partner who is well-respected, loved, and a long-time part of our flying family,” commented Joni Kashiwai, president of the Hawaiian Airlines branch of the Association of Flight Attendants.
A second flight attendant who was also at the training event is still receiving treatment for COVID-19 in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Honolulu.
After the cluster was identified by health officials, Hawaiian Airlines temporarily closed its training center for deep cleaning and disinfection. At the time, the training was being performed “with a redesigned format featuring new health and safety measures, including smaller class sizes, social distancing, the use of gloves, and frequent cleaning of facilities and equipment,” a statement from the airline explained.
Hawaiian Airlines has since made face masks mandatory in training classes and throughout the airline’s offices where social distancing cannot be maintained.
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.