Piedmont Airlines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines which operates regional flights under the American Eagle brand has been accused of failing to offer its flight attendants paid pandemic leave when staffers test positive for COVID-19 or when they have to self-isolate because they are identified as a close contact.
The policy to make flight attendants use their own sick days for pandemic-related absences is in stark contrast to the approach taken by its mainline parent company which boasts of the initiative on its corporate website. Other regional carriers including Envoy and PSA also offer flight attendants pandemic sick leave.
“While other airlines negotiated paid or non-punitive pandemic leave, Piedmont management penalized Flight Attendants,” allege the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents crew at the Marland-based carrier.
“Management forced us to use our own sick leave when we tested positive for COVID, likely at work, or when required to quarantine due to a known COVID exposure,” a statement from the union continues. “Almost no other airline requires Flight Attendants to use their own sick leave for COVID related absences.”
Piedmont employs around 10,000 workers and operates close to 400 daily departures between 55 destinations across the eastern United States. The airline’s fleet of 50 seater Embraer ERJ-145 twin-engine regional jets are not fitted with hospital-grade HEPA air filters as standard but they can be retrofitted.
Flight attendants at American Airlines mainline are entitled to up to two weeks of paid time off if they are awaiting test results, have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 or have themselves tested positive for the novel Coronavirus.
Piedmont Airlines flight attendants are, however, made to use their own sick leave to cover for these eventualities.
Last week, Piedmont was in the news after it asked some pilots to delay getting a vaccinated due to high demand across its network. The airline’s chief pilots told colleagues that in order to maintain “operational reliability” they should “attempt to schedule later in the month”.
Piedmont said that it encourages all employees to get vaccinated but that a surge in travel demand was making it difficult to release pilots from their duties. An FAA requirement that pilots wait for at least 48-hours after receiving their shot before returning to work was making the situation even more complicated.
“While we encourage every pilot to get vaccinated, the requirement to wait 48-hours before returning to flight duty is causing serious crew coverage concerns,” one memo sent to pilots explained.
Piedmont has been contacted for comment.
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.