As United Airlines re-introduces pre-departure beverages and explores upgrades to its longhaul business class meal service, the union representing United flight attendants is pushing back, citing the high transmissibility of omicron variant.
AFA Union Lobbies For New Service Reductions On United Airlines
A January 11th debrief memo from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) to flight attendants notes “the new Omicron variant is less severe than either the original COVID-19 or Delta variants, but is much more transmissible, even among those who are fully vaccinated and boosted.”
Indeed, while roughly 3,000 United employees are currently positive for COVID-19, none are hospitalized.
The memo notes that Alaska Airlines responded to AFA concerns over omicron by limiting “in-flight services to one beverage service in the main cabin on all flights, and no meal service at all on medium-haul trips.” Specifically, Alaska Airlines is temporarily eliminating the sale of fresh food onboard and will limit the number of pre-ordered drinks or snacks allowed from 63 to 42 through the month of January.
Now, the AFA has “approached United management about curtailing services in an ongoing effort to reduce opportunities for transmission of the virus.” The AFA warns:
“[G]reater enhancements to service components amidst one of the most severe COVID surges to date, is something that needs to be challenged. And, we are challenging the thought process behind this decision-making especially as instances of positive COVID tests are on the rise…
“While we can all agree that increasing the level of service for our passengers needs to be a priority, priorities can and should be weighed against other external factors. We are hopeful that United’s assessment of the risks associated with the continued introduction of these service enhancements at this time outweighs their introduction during this period of increasing COVID transmission.”
Presently, United is reviewing the request.
Earlier this week, Live and Let’s Fly noted that United plans a February trial of more service elements (like expanded dessert offerings) on longhaul business class flights. The AFA is asking United to delay such service elements and continues to request that United scrap pre-departure beverage service.
Citing Alaska Airlines, the AFA is asking United Airlines to cut back in-fight service, which it says is increasing the risk of coronavirus spread. Thus far, United Airlines has not responded to the flight attendants’ requests.
Do you think the flight attendants union has a point?
image: United Airlines