Flight attendants at United Airlines have been ordered to stop sharing beds on aircraft fitted with crew bunks as a preventative measure to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Traditionally, flight attendants would use the same bunks one after the other with in-flight breaks split into two or three shifts but medical advisors have now banned the practice for fear an infected flight attendant could unwittingly infect their colleagues.
Under rules drawn up by United Airlines and the Cleveland Clinic, each bunk can only be used once per flight. Despite the fact that most crew rest compartments have curtains of other partitions between bunks, flight attendants will have to occupy alternating beds to maintain physical distancing.
No more than three bunks can be used per rest break, meaning that some flight attendants will be expected to use reserved crew rest seats during their downtime. On some long-haul flights, flight attendants must achieve a period of rest to comply with stringent ‘flight time limitations’ rules.
The new policy came into effect Thursday and is likely to remain in force for the foreseeable future. The change comes as United sets it sights on ramping up long-haul international flights where crew rest is more common.
The Chicago-based airline teamed up with the Cleveland Clinic and household cleaning brand Clorox in May to develop new health and safety measures to combat the novel Coronavirus. Medical experts from the Cleveland Clinic have been advising airline managers on social distancing and cleaning policies.
In August, United started to use special Ultraviolet C (UVC) light wands to disinfect flight deck controls on the advice of the Cleveland Clinic. And back in June, the airline rolled out mandatory pre-flight health self-assessments for passengers on the recommendations of the same medical team.
United has also strengthened its onboard face mask policy, effectively banning anyone from flying who might be medically exempt from wearing a face mask. A new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense in partnership with United found the chance of catching COVID-19 on a plane was almost non-existent so long as everyone was wearing a face mask.
Flight attendants and other customer-facing United staffers must wear a face mask at all times onboard and could face disciplinary action if they don’t comply. Flight attendants with a medical exemption have been reassigned to alternative duties.
Pilots, however, may remove their face mask once in the flight deck if they think wearing a mask could impede their performance or otherwise create a safety risk.
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.