Delta Air Lines has issued a cease and desist letter against the largest flight attendant union in the world over COVID-19 ‘misinformation’ that the airline believes is “false and defamatory” against Delta.
The letter was sent by Delta’s chief legal officer Peter Carter to Edward Gilmartin, general counsel for the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) last Friday. AFA does not represent Delta’s non-unionized flight attendant workforce but has been fighting an increasingly fraught battle to convince enough Delta crewmembers to sign union authorization cards.
The union has been heavily critical of Delta’s decision to lobby the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last December for a reduction in the recommended isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19. The airline successfully argued the isolation period should be reduced to just five days because of Omicron induced staffing shortages.
Although Delta initially suggested early release from isolation should be only be allowed with a negative test, the airline went on to accept and implement updated CDC guidance that releases asymptomatic or fever-free COVID-19 infected staff from isolation after just five days.
Sara Nelson, the president of AFA who has been dubbed America’s most powerful flight attendant, said in one tweet last week that she was receiving reports that Delta workers were being told to return to work after five days of isolation even if they were still testing positive for COVID-19.
Carter described this claim as “false and defamatory information” and suggested AFA hadn’t attempted to corroborate the information by contacting Delta.
“Not only is this information false, but it is actionable because it places Delta in a highly negative light by suggesting Delta was asking employees to work while they were ill,” Carter’s letter, published by David Shepardson of Reuters, argued.
“Even more troubling. the AFA’s conduct appears to have been made with the intent to create fear and confusion among Delta employees about their own health (which is candidly reprehensible”.
“Such irresponsible conduct is inappropriate, defamatory and must cease immediately,” the letter continued.
Carter called for the posts to be deleted immediately but on Tuesday the tweets in question remained online.
Nelson has hit back, telling Delta chief executive Ed Bastian that she believes the statements made by her and AFA against Delta’s pandemic sickness policies are “truthful and accurate”.
“But we will, of course, correct the record if you can point out to us any specific instance where our statements were false when we made them,” Nelson tells Bastian. The union believes Delta has updated its sickness policy in the last few days and that AFA’s claims were accurate when published.
“We’re glad that AFA’s calling attention to the issues appears to have led Delta to update its policy several times and communicate this to workers,” Nelson writes
Soon after the CDC updated its isolation guidance, Delta boasted that it was working to quickly implement the new rules. The airline highlighted how the reduced isolation period would provide more resilience to the business by allowing it to schedule crews and employees with greater flexibility.
“This is a safe, science-based and more practical approach based on what we now know about the omicron variant,” commented Delta’s chief health officer Dr. Henry Ting at the time.
“We’re learning that while omicron is highly contagious, it also involves a shorter duration of illness and a shorter contagious period compared to previous strains,” Dr. Ting continued.
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.