Buried in a note to key figures in the Trump Administration and Congress asking that all airline passengers be coerced to wear face masks was another, more curious demand: ban leisure travel. Flight attendants should be very careful what they wish for…
Flight Attendant Union: Ban Leisure Travel
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) wants the U.S. government to “end all leisure travel until the virus is contained.”
Just what might that look like? The AFA goes into detail in its four-page letter.
We call on lawmakers and regulators to take further action to limit the spread of the virus by restricting air travel to only that necessary to continue essential services. Airlines are continuing to deliver people, mail, and cargo, uniting families that are grieving or rushing to be with those who have fallen ill, and transporting others who require medical treatment unrelated to the pandemic.
These are some of the many essential services provided by aviation to all of our communities – large and small – that must be maintained as the pandemic continues. We believe that protecting this essential service and ensuring air travel is not aiding in spread of the virus requires a halt to all leisure travel until the pandemic is brought under control according to health authorities. We appreciate the swift steps DOT has taken to put in place a process for airlines to request exemptions on flights that do not assist materially in the essential service to our communities.
We believe we can all do more together and will work for a brief anti-trust exemption so DOT can coordinate a schedule with airlines to continue essential service only. In addition, we request messaging from all leadership to encourage the public to end leisure travel until we have “flattened the curve.”
The second paragraph above sounds like the AFA wants leisure travel banned, just like in the opening paragraph of the letter, which calls on the Administration to “end” leisure travel. The third paragraph sounds like it merely want leaders to discourage that travel. That final paragraph represents the only viable approach. After all, how can you tell the difference between leisure and business/essential travel? That’s very difficult, even on specific routes.
But what happens if leisure travel is banned until the curve is flattened? Airlines are already warning of severe job cuts. If passengers are discouraged from booking, won’t this only exacerbate the coming autumn job cuts? Would flight attendants rather have a job with elevated risk or no job at all?
There is no easy answer.
I’m curious to hear from flight attendants. Would you rather than essentially no customers now, knowing that it may lead to more job losses later? I’m obviously not a flight attendant, but it would seem to me that with proper testing you’d want planes as full as possible to avoid pay, benefit, or even job cuts later.
And of course all of this is overshadowed by the reality that actually no one is traveling for leisure now. Planes are mostly empty and I don’t know of anyone who is just traveling for fun. In that sense, this discussion is almost moot right now.
image: Vince_Vega / Flickr (CC 2.0)