The union which represents flight attendants at American Airlines wants the carrier to drawback inflight service in an effort to reduce the risk of one of its members being exposed to the Omicron variant by an unmasked passenger.
In a note to its members on Wednesday, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) said it was in talks with AA management about a “temporary reduction to onboard service levels and customer touchpoints”.
Flight attendants at United Airlines have also demanded their airline temporarily reduce inflight service because of fears surrounding the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and a record surge in infections. United management continues to review the proposals.
Alaska Airlines has already agreed to cut back meal and beverage services after a different branch of the same union lobbied management.
“Our goal is to maintain the highest level of Flight Attendant and passenger safety as possible onboard the aircraft,” a memo signed by APFA National President Julie Hedrick informed AA flight attendants on Wednesday.
“These proposed changes lessen the time that a passenger will not be wearing a mask and, in turn, limit Flight Attendant exposure,” the memo continued.
Amongst the ideas put forward by the union is to reduce the beverage service in the main cabin on domestic flights as well as to ‘international premium destinations’ in Europe, Asia and Deep South America.
Hedrick also suggested that in premium cabins, the main entree be served alongside the appetizer to cut down on the number of times that flight attendants are passing up and down the aisles.
The union would like to see the proposed changes implemented immediately but has not suggested a timeframe for how long the reduced service would remain in place.
At the start of the pandemic, airlines rushed to axe inflight meal and beverage services over fears that any interaction between flight attendants and passengers could spread COVID-19 and put the safety of crew members at risk.
U.S.-based carriers have been very slow, in comparison to international peers, at restoring meal and beverage services to something that resembles pre-pandemic levels and AA still prohibits alcohol sales in the main cabin on domestic flights. The policy could remain in force for however long the federal face mask mandate remains in force.
In response to the Omicron threat, Air New Zealand curtailed all inflight service on domestic flights, while Pakistan has banned operators on domestic services from serving meals.
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.