Flying is tough right now in the US with current restrictions due to Coronavirus. Flight Attendants are feeling the pressure with all the hallmarks of previous tragedies.
Governments all over the world are attempting to contain their own Coronavirus cases and protect their citizens. In some cases this involves self-imposed isolation, in other cases, it is the result of restrictions imposed by other countries. In cases like Italy, it was a combination of the two.
The US has restricted flights to most of Europe. This follows prior restrictions to China.
These restrictions have mandated the reduction of flights, reducing passenger loads, scheduled flights and customer demand.
It’s Not Just the Government Restrictions
Businesses and individual travelers are also leaving their mark. United has stated domestic demand was down 70% and that was prior to the cancellation of seemingly every major public event like the NBA season, NCAA activities, the PGA tour, the NHL and MLB seasons – even Broadway and Disney have closed all parks.
My business is one that is very unlikely to see the same reductions, but perhaps it is only a matter of time.
But much like the irrational run on toilet paper in the last days (I have one of these so I didn’t join that party), whether you find yourself in the camp of prepper or skeptic, the toilet paper is still out of stock and the flights are still fairly empty.
Flight Attendants Remember the Days Following 9/11
Some flight attendants this week have expressed to me directly the eery parallels to the days following 9/11. Those flight attendants flying in the days following September 11th recall a time of uncertainty, trepidation, and of course genuine fear.
Many have stated that it’s not just the load factors that remind them of those terrible days but also the empty hallways, the nervousness of the flying public look hauntingly familiar, and a sense of dread as bills arrive. One indicated that though she is five years away from a true pension (ex-Continental FAs kept this), she can’t take a buy-out because she has kids in college and the bills keep coming.
Leave Offered, Austerity Measures in Place
A couple of flight attendants indicated that at least at United, they have already been offered six-month unpaid leave, but continue to extend the dates because they do not have enough volunteers. Hours were cut (to spread the remaining work over more FAs) to 68 hours, though I fear that will fall further.
Monthly schedules should have been out on March 11th but have been pushed until the 17th now for April lines. The reduction of hours all was in effect prior to the end of most large sporting events, the end of the majority of European flights, and now before the mass reduction in business travel.
I feel for the flight attendants, pilots, gate agents and the rest of the travel industry that are uncertain about their futures and scared not only for their own health but the health of the businesses that employ them. They have seen this all before and are just as worried as they were in the past. We should be too.
What do you think? The spread of Coronavirus has only been in the US for a few weeks and while still not out-of-the-woods, containment efforts seem to be somewhat effective. Do you see doom and gloom or is this a temporary setback? Are you personally scared for your own employment?
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