The President of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) has told Congress it is critical that “food and beverage services continue to be held to absolute minimums” and that lowering masks to eat or drink places flight attendants in grave danger.
Flight Attendants Want “Absolute Minimum” Service Onboard…For Their “Protection”
Testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation, Sara Nelson made four points concerning onboard food and beverages:
- Flight attendants are at higher risk than health care workers when they serve food
- Thus, onboard food and beverage service should be kept to “absolute minimums”
- Passengers must abide by a “dip and sip” policy of removing masks for only a few seconds at a time
- Alcohol sales should be suspended and only cold food should be offered on flights less than three hours until “the public health emergency is fully behind us”
Here are her remarks on food and beverage in full:
A 2020 study of COVID-19 infection by occupation in Norway found that flight attendants and their counterparts working on ships reported nearly five times the risk of COVID-19 during the second wave of infection last summer and fall, as compared to the general working population in Norway, when matched by age and gender. The only jobs that posed a higher risk of COVID-19 during that time involved serving food and beverages. Even health care workers were at lower risk. The data is clear: repeated exposure to unmasked individuals increases the risk of transmission. For this reason, to protect passengers and flight crews, it is critical that food and beverage services continue to be held to absolute minimums.
Study after study confirms that wearing a mask is the single best protection against spreading and receiving COVID-19. Modeling data and population studies both show a strong effect, but only when masks are worn properly and consistently. As Americans, we are told to wear a mask in the grocery store and the doctor’s office, and if we were to remove our mask to eat a sandwich or sip a beverage in those environments, we’d be escorted off the premises. Flight attendants work in one of the most densely-occupied spaces in the world with windows that don’t open, doors that aren’t available most of the time, and limited ventilation.
Until the public health emergency is fully behind us, TSA and FAA must continue to send a consistent message about masking up to prevent onboard disease transmission, including mandatory, regular announcements for passengers to not remove their mask until the flight attendants have passed their row and, even then, to only “dip” their mask down momentarily to take a bite or sip (“dip and sip”). AFA recommends that airlines only serve cold food and drinks on flights less than 1,800 miles or three hours, that drinks are only distributed in individual cans/bottles, and that onboard alcohol sales are suspended until the pandemic is over.
Do Flight Attendants Have A Point?
As consumer demand returns and customers again have a choice, airlines will need to again compete on product. Part of that product is food and beverages onboard.
The idea that flight attendants are exposed to more risk than first responders may be supported by certain cherry-picked statistics, but this charge is highly problematic for airlines that have spent millions telling consumers that HEPA filters and air circulation create an extremely safe environment.
Nelson says “bare minimum” food and beverage is necessary “until the public health emergency is fully behind us.” I’ve got news for you: that will never happen. In all likelihood, we can expect booster shots each year like our annual flu shots.
The “just a little bit longer” card has become incredibly trite. Somehow all the finer airlines of the world manage to serve a full hot meal service with real glasses and silverware. Restoring comfort to air travel need not come at the expense of public health in any meaningful way.
After picking taxpayer pockets to remain employed when millions of other lost their jobs, now flight attendants do not want to work – at least according to the union president who represents several major U.S. airlines. Here’s a thought: if you don’t want to work, no one is forcing you to stay…
So she wants less actual work, more restrictions and constant pay? Her version of flying will decrease traffic and endanger the very jobs she purports to save. Of course she will still get paid.
Then reduce all flight attendants pay by 75% immediately…..for “safety”. Any they wonder why I hate flight attendants.
I have to agree 100% with Matthew here. As a group, flight attendants seem to be totally focused on doing absolutely nothing while they are in the air, other than provide the unquestionably very important safety functions they are trained for. Even before the health crisis, most FA’s on the US major carriers rushed the beverage (and rare food) service and then seated themselves in the back rows or galley reading books. Unlike many of the non-US carriers, it was rare to even see them even passing through with water. Now, using the health crisis as an excuse you don’t see them at all. What is interesting to me, Spirit and their FAs provide a full beverage and food for sale service, and are not dying in the aisles from COVID-19 exposure. The airline industry has been coddled by congress with massive bailouts which kept FAs employes while planes were empty. As Matthew said, if they don’t like their jobs, find another.
The thing I find interesting is that there is no way to suggest that the higher prevalence of covid cases amongst flight crew is to do with passengers. That assumes that all crew are sequestered in their accommodation and don’t do anything on layovers. Whilst that is undoubtedly true in some nations, during UK lockdowns, it was obvious from social media that crews visiting the US were able to mix and mingle with more people than had they been home under lockdown rules here. This is not to say they broke any rules as what was banned in the UK was not banned in the USA etc, but how do you separate cases caught on the layover vs through service? As suggested, this sounds like a way to reduce the level of effort provided during a flight.
There is such a legacy of disrespect toward flight attendants: sexism, dismissiveness, even violence. From my perspective, all of that oppression has brought about a backlash. Fearing terrorism, infectious disease, or a physical assault, flight attendants can develop a maladaptive and desperate need for social control.
The level of punitive warnings has reached laughable proportions: “report unwanted behaviour,” “no congregating,” “if you leave anything it will be confiscated by federal…” “federal law,” “federal mandate,” “law,” “policy,” “law,” it’s rather like a green primary school teacher with poor management skills or unedited emails from some homeowner association. The crews, of course, will argue that they must be threatening, “otherwise nobody will listen.”
The mask/sipping game is just one more way in which flight attendants derail their attempts for authority. Masks do help, but they are not magic. I would like to see unequivocal data to demonstrate that a sleeping passenger would transmit COVID to a partially vaccinated aircraft–even if the sleeping guest has his or her mask fall off. Is it reasonable that COVID presents a genuine risk if a forward-facing passenger on a HEPA-filtered aircraft would transmit COVID to anyone?
The demand for reducing service is a thinly-veiled way of saying, “we are tired and stressed.” I have no doubt. But passengers pay for premium services on board and on the ground. “Because COVID” will only last for so long.
I usually think of Ms Nelson as a rational voice for her union, but our thoughts diverge here. Arguing that “people get used to it,” is painfully shallow. We are still dealing with the absurdity of shoe removal and “3.4 fluid ounces” because we are forced to deal with it, not because have embraced and accepted it.
Imagine harnessing all of that energy from fear and rules and channelling in to vaccination campaigns. If the APFA wants safety and respect, they should be setting up vaccine booths in airports, launching campaigns for airline and airport employees to be immunized. They can protect themselves, set an example for the public, and then we might all have a collective, maskless, sigh of relief.
This is the same Sarah Nelson that stated flight attendants were “1st responders “. Laughable. US carriers could learn so much about service etc. if they were to spend any time on a decent international carrier i.e. Singapore airlines Cathay, the list goes on. The pilots union and flight attendant unions are just out of control. As someone else once mentioned as soon as the flight attendants announce that they are here mainly for your safety….you know it’s going to be a LONG flight
Typical democrat; more pay for less work and F*ck the taxpayer. These same bozos are arguing for $15/hr minimum wage yet these idiots can’t manage to put the right order in the right bag at McDonald’s. Sara Nelson is a parasite and so are her supporters.
This was a non political post but way to chime in and try to enflame people.
Nothing to do with being a democrat, I am sure many FAs across ALL the political spectrum aren’t opposed to the ideas she is expressing here.
Also, who says everyone who works at McDonald’s is a democrat?
Also, why I am feeding this troll?
This is why people hate labor unions
And it is why there is so much mask resistance. One side is angling for masks forever. That extreme is causing a reaction from the other extreme “masks never”
How about we follow the science for once. The vaccines largely prevent transmission. If you are vaccinated, masks are no longer required. To hell with equity and virtue signaling
This is not going to help FAs. The science does not support this. A union leader should be doing things to help the employees they represent. That is rarer than it should be.
Sara Nelson a “United airline” employee and Flight Attendant wants to do less work ?? Shocking, shocking I say …
What a joke she is and other Flight Attendants … the least respected work group at any of US airlines.
I work at United and we despise them !
Bunch of pre-madonnas .. all of them
Sara Nelson is a clown. She’s been a disgrace for a year now.
Yeah… no. Sorry. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, do your job. If flight attendants want to be treated like healthcare workers, the solution was and remains PPE and mandatory vaccination. Not a reduction in scope of work by Congressional mandate.
I respect Sara a great deal, though I don’t necessarily agree with much of the political grandstanding… it’s clear she has larger aspirations. But the only reason tens of thousands of AFA members are able to keep paying dues has been the outsize “strings-attached” support paid to the airline industry. It’s a questionable tactic, in my mind, to keeping going back to that well.
It’s essentially re-(economic)regulation of the industry in the name of “public health.”
At least they’re consistent. Onboard service has to be less frustrating than babysitting people to keep their masks on.
Perhaps their demeanour would improve if they were called passenger attendants.
F/A’s are required by the FAA and there are F/A minimums set by the FAA. The airline looks to the F/A’s to provide safety and service, that is the deal when they sign on to. If AFA wants to reduce the services, then aircraft should them only fly with FAA minimums. Now that will likely result in more junior F/A’s being furloughed, but Sara seems to be comfortable with that.
Scott Kirby has been out there pushing for United employees to get vaccinated, a good safety measure and some positive PR thrown in for good measure. If a front line employee decides not to get vaccinated, then OK, it’s your life, it’s your risk.
I was a F/A back in the 80’s – 90’s when crew members were exposed to second hand smoke on flights. International flights were the worst and I had many a night spent coughing compliments of the smoking public. In addition there are viruses on the aircraft, at the hotel, in the cities they layover in. Always has been, always will be. Does AFA recommend to they membership not to go out on layovers where malaria and other infectious diseases are present? I’m all for being safe with your body, but life is risk.
Maybe each FA should be given a bubble suit, paid for by taxpayers of course, to shield them from life as a whole? Or maybe they can find work in the medical field since that’s ‘less risky’ than flinging soda and peanuts at passengers…
Give me a break, just do your job or find another one.
Airlines need to Continue to allow pax to bring their own food onboard while a minimum service is provided. Without the weight and amount of wasted food after flts, without the socalled vip perks onboard for a select few, with the new normal of pax flying due to low fares, airlines will make money. Crew can focus on pax safety onboard which due to the diverse collection of personalities today, is paramount. Pax don’t expect much just low fares and frequency of destination flts. Profits and satisfaction to all party’s concerned. This is my observationvation from a 30yr career as a international flight attendent.
“How about we follow the science for once. The vaccines largely prevent transmission. If you are vaccinated, masks are no longer required. To hell with equity and virtue signaling”
Most the science says you should still wear a mask after getting vaccinated until a certain percentage of the population gets vaccinated. The US is not there yet.
Yep, As I have been saying for a year. Covid will be just like 9/11 in flight attendants finding any excuse possible to do even less work but have more power trips to rest on – and making sure it’s implemented forever. Now is a perfect opportunity for JetBlue to go big, fast, and make them look even worse than they already do in their frumpy uniforms and those ugly clog shoes, with frowns a mile long.
Nelson is nuts. If flight attendants don’t want to get COVID, they should get vaccinated and wear masks.
What science? What is the point is wearing a mask, other than virtue signaling if vaccinated? If transmission if the vaccines are 80-90 percent effective?
Getting the vaccine is what is going to stop transmission. It’s why cases are again falling quickly.
If unvaccinated, then of course, wear the mask. You can easily catch it or spread it if not vaccinated
We need to be looking at the actual DATA and less on the Faucis or the pundits who, to be honest, have not been very accurate with this virus to date
This from a now VERY senior United Flight Attendant who is head of the AFA – Gee – what a surprise…….
Tom i agree..typical liberal Democrats esp the union head—Nelson…. wonder how much she gets paid to do nothing??just checked=$172,000!!!! last week on a 5 ++ hour flight got water,almond serviceafter takeoff then 45 minutes before landing saw FA again for water/ drinks but did not have the canned drinks available///
@Aaron – what science (objectively-verifiable data) suggests that?
I would posit there is none. But if we are substituting politically-motivated rhetoric from erstwhile scientists for “science”, then perhaps you have a point.
Once again, you’ve mistaken Sara Nelson for “flight attendants”. She’s a politician who leads an anti-labor union. She doesn’t represent the thoughts and beliefs of the actual laborers, the flight attendants. When is the last time she even spoke to an active flight attendant? She has no idea what we want, and she’s consistently wrong in what she claims we want.
I have to agree with Matthew’s conclusion. Sara Nelson missed her calling as President Trump’s mouthpiece.
So what exactly do these flying mattresses want to do?
So sad what has become of US aviation. There is no style in flying, not even when flying premium cabins such as “Flagship First” or “Delta One”. All you’re going to get are stern looks, some water in a plastic cup and a cookie. These flight attendants *rightfully* think that demand clearly does not depend on whether the service they provide is bad or really bad – people will fly anyway, so what’s the big deal? I wish Delta would retrain their FAs and instil a “customer first” attitude.
Yikes. Awful comments here, except the one who is a current flight attendant and the guy that seems to know real science and questions what others think are science when it’s actually political rhetoric they’ve come to believe in that is actually based on greed and making billions off of others’ ignorance and not based on health. The rest strike me as people that don’t know what they’re talking about and have not worked as a flight attendant recently or keep patronizing bad airlines. Well I have worked as an FA recently, and on most flights, I don’t have time to go to the bathroom or even take a sip of water. Forget eating. I work hard and my whole body is sore after. Remember, I’m in heels too, so my feet are in pain toward the end of the day. And I’m dehydrated and exhausted for days after too. And I usually don’t sweat much, but every flight you guys are cold on, I’m hot and sweating because I have to keep moving. And now I’m even hotter and can’t breathe in the masks. We are not guaranteed breaks like other jobs and are probably the least protected job in America, so forget eating on most shifts. Granted, I care very much about my passengers and a job well done – I can’t speak for other airlines, but I interviewed with most of the majors and only my company is the one that impressed me for their insistence that what we do (at my airline) is about serving others. And we mean it from the heart. So not all airlines – nor flight attendants – are created equal. Just as many of you say here that if we don’t like it we can quit, but if you don’t like the airline you’re flying, then you can quit flying it and choose a different product. I have never had time to read a book on one of my work flights. Lol, that’s seriously laughable. And no, I don’t think any company should’ve gotten a bail out. We’re already over-taxed. If a business goes down, that’s on them for their ignorance in what’s really going on, and those responsible need to answer to it and the pressure should remain on those responsible.
Also, my job nowadays is so info-packed and complicated, I can’t even begin to explain to even my own friends what we do. I give up on trying. We spend multiple hours of our own time studying, keeping up on ever-changing federal mandates and FAA info. When we get on an aircraft, we have to rush to make sure every piece of emergency equipment is in working order – and there’s a lot throughout the aircraft. If your heart stopped, a fire broke out, a bomb is found, a rapid decompression happens, or a crash landing is imminent – whether land or water – would you know exactly what to do? Well I do, and we train hard at these things constantly to be ready to save your lives, using our own time to study. We’re also tracking who is armed on a flight, closely guarding each unaccompanied minor, paying attention for those that are disabled and their special needs, and looking out for young people being trafficked (we have saved some lives at my airline). All this while conducting drink services and the stress of having to collect payments for alcohol on flights we really don’t have the time for, but many of us have risked our own safety on a daily basis to get those last drinks out to you, and many of us have been injured – myself included. One FA friend has never fully healed. I could go on and on with the multi-tasking and high stress work I do on every single flight, but I do have to go back to my studying to prepare for an upcoming flight and the many changing scenarios with many differing procedures and the multiple handbooks I’m required to know which became so big and heavy that we had to switch to iPads. And like someone mentioned, a lot of what we say – and yes, we have to work on memorizing those public announcements that are ever-changing – are mandated by the FAA – not us.
But again, I’m blessed to work for an extraordinary company. If you’re not having that experience, it’s time to try something new.
And before you continue to judge your FA, bear in mind our crash pads and hotels before a work trip are out of our own pocket, to include some of our uniform pieces and luggage. I’ve spent multiple hundreds of dollars just this last month to prepare for work, and have to buy my own set of luggage next, which, of course, has to be the best to hold up to the use it will endure. I’m not paid for any of it. And I don’t believe my pay in the near future will cover what I’ve had to put out this last month. Once I tried to sleep in our bag room when I couldn’t afford a crash pad. Another time I tried to sleep on the floor of our ironing room. They were both hard and cold and I never really slept, yet I get on that flight and do my best to make sure my customers feel welcomed and cared for. There was a time when I wasn’t paid at all – the insurance company found a way to deny my workers’ comp claim even though I had witnesses to my injuries. They began to garnish 100% of my paycheck, demanding payback for the medical services I received. I lost my home of 12 years during this time because I couldn’t afford to make payments. And healing was delayed because I couldn’t afford to continue physical therapy. I went hungry during these days and became ill since it was Christmas and the only leftovers I could take from our company party was the deserts so I rationed them but my immunity rapidly decreased with only eating sugary foods. During that time, a passenger commented that he had never received such good service and asked it it was some sort of a holiday or special day. “No, you’re just flying with me today” I informed him with a smile. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew I wasn’t paid for any of it? I wonder if that causes you to rethink before you judge your FA taking a break, who may not have had a break on any other flight the entire day? Also, it took me 3.5 hours to get to and from work the other day. None of my commute is paid for either. In fact, we’re not even getting paid while we’re helping you lift your heavy bags during boarding and deplaning.
Many of us also do things – unpaid and on our own time – to help passengers that you don’t see. Once I risked being late to my gate to help a young mother traveling for the first time, pregnant and with a baby. I ran through the opposite terminal and carried her things for her to petition the gate agents to let her on since she was late. This was not my airline and this major carrier denied her boarding and there were no other flights the rest of the night. So me and my base got together to get her food and a hotel for the night until she could make a flight the next day on her other airline.
Again, maybe you continue to see something different than the service I provide, but if you do, you’re flying with the wrong airline. Instead, fly with the airline that has literally taught, “We’re in the business of serving others. We just happen to fly planes.”
Thanks for reading this.