The nation’s largest flight attendants union called for a stop to all leisure travel as the death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rises and airlines leave workers exposed.
On a Monday morning call with reporters, Sara Nelson, the powerful head of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said at least one flight attendant had died and more than 100 flight attendants had tested positive for the virus so far. Nearly 1,000 were self-quarantined and several more were in intensive care.
She urged the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to issue advisories to the public to postpone any non-necessary voyages until the spread of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the new virus, is under control.
“We are calling for a halt to all leisure travel,” Nelson said on the call organized by the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of unions. “We’re calling on a coordinated government response, we’re calling on all our airlines, and we’re also calling for leadership from DOT and FAA on advising the public that we do not need any leisure travel right now.”
More than 75 FAA employees at 30 air traffic control centers in New York, Las Vegas, Orlando and Houston had tested positive for the virus as of Monday, said Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
“Unfortunately as they’re going to work they are being exposed,” he said.
The dramatic plea to cease air travel came as airline unions scramble to protect workers vulnerable to both the virus and its economic fallout as passenger carriers face a devastating collapse of travel demand.
Airlines started laying off workers as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. surged in the middle of last month. Congress approved $50 billion in loans and direct aid to prop up the industry under its $2.2 trillion emergency relief package. But the top Democrats in Congress worried last week that the money...