Alaska Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents thousands of crew members at the Seattle-based carrier are “philosophically apart” on the airline’s decision to roll back yet more pandemic era restrictions beginning November 4, the union said in a memo sent to flight attendants on Wednesday.
The memo was sent just hours after Alaska Airlines publicly announced plans to introduce more onboard food options beginning Friday.
Onboard service was dramatically scaled back at the onset of the pandemic in a bid to reduce contact between flight attendants and passengers. Like other carriers, Alaska Airlines has slowly been adding back elements of its onboard service but has sometimes faced opposition from employees.
The flight attendants union told members that it had spent “hours upon hours in meetings with management” trying to persuade the airline to halt its rollback of pandemic restrictions by raising “numerous issues” with the plans.
Alaska Airlines did agree to postpone the introduction of some of its planned service elements but in the main cabin, the changes will exceed pre-pandemic service levels.
During meetings with management, the union says “it became clear that management and AFA are philosophically apart on the potential risks that Flight Attendants face as a result of expanding onboard service in the current environment.”
“The health and safety risks posed by additional interaction time with passengers and increased challenges with enforcing the federal mask mandate are likely only to be amplified with more food and beverage items being offered on the aircraft.”
Alaska Airlines last set out improvements to its onboard service in July, although many of the changes were limited to longer-range flights. The airline said it had worked closely with epidemiologists and internal safety experts before implementing the changes.
A spokesperson says the airline is maintaining its mask themed mantra: “After you sip or snack, please put your mask back.”
Flight attendants are being encouraged to report safety concerns to “strengthen” the union’s argument.
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.