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Union Heads: Washington Needs to Do More to Stop COVID-19

Union Heads: Washington Needs to Do More to Stop COVID-19
Joe Cortez

Two leaders of customer-facing aviation unions say the White House and Capitol Hill are not doing enough to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus outbreak. Leaders from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and Air Line Pilots Association are calling on lawmakers to set aviation health standards to save the travel industry and save jobs.

The presidents of two prominent aviation unions say Washington needs to do more to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus, otherwise the airline sector may not recover. In a joint editorial published by The Hill, Capt. Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, and Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, are calling on legislators and the White House to step in to create level rules for airlines.

Airlines Need COVID-19 Regulations Like Ones “Used to Prohibit Smoking on Flights”

In their plea to Washington, the union heads say that airlines need regulations on everything from social distancing to the use of face masks. Although airlines are taking measures into their own hands to help flyers feel confident, they are also asking for lawmakers to create rules based on science and public health interests.

“We know that crew and passenger use of masks, along with proper hand hygiene and procedures that reduce contact, can help limit the risks of coronavirus spread through air travel,” the two presidents write. “But without federal safety regulations — like the regulations we used to prohibit smoking on flights — these policies are nearly impossible to enforce.”

In recent weeks, passengers have disrupted flights because of their refusal to wear face masks. While American Airlines is standing behind their strengthened face covering policy, Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian said they have banned over 100 flyers due to their non-compliance.

The two aren’t just speaking out on the use of face masks. The union heads also want Capitol Hill to set standards across the board, from the airport experience to cleaning standards. Without them, the two say borders will remain closed to travelers indefinitely.

“The lack of uniform rules on masks, seat spacing, cleaning, air circulation and airport practices must be addressed,” writes DePete and Nelson. “In the absence of federal regulations, our allies abroad won’t lift travel restrictions, and we won’t gain passengers’ confidence in our ability to keep them safe.”

COVID-19 Protections Could Save Jobs, Return Passengers to the Skies

Furthermore, the two argue that beyond consumer confidence, creating COVID-19 pandemic standards will save jobs and drive the economy forward. The leaders say 10 million American jobs are supported by aviation, and economic rebound is built on preserving those jobs. To those ends, they are asking Congress to extend the Payroll Support Program in a future stimulus bill – otherwise, the entire economy could see a major downturn due to lost jobs.

“As the pandemic persists and even intensifies in some regions, additional investment is needed in workers and an industry that form the foundation of our economy,” the two write in their opinion piece. “We need to extend this historic workers-first program now, or hundreds of thousands of workers could lose their jobs.”

It may not just be airline employees losing their jobs as a result of a downturn. In their most recent data, hospitality consultant firm STR noted occupancy rates dropped recently, which they suggest could be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to STR, demand for hotels have slowed, possibly because of an increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide. Image courtesy: STR.

According to STR, demand for hotels have slowed, possibly because of an increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide. Image courtesy: STR.

In previous testimony to Congress, the chief of the Federal Aviation Administration said they would not set mandates for the aviation industry. Instead, they passed it off as a public health issue – with officials in that arena saying more needs to be done to protect passengers.

View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. sdsearch

    July 29, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    The seem to think that airline travel is only hurt because of concern about airline travel. But then they say “As the pandemic persists and even intensifies in some regions”, and that’s another reason why airline travel is hurting, because many people don’t want to go to another region for fears not only of higher transmission rates there, but constantly changing quarantine and other rules about travelers from other regions. I’d rather stay in my state (or at most neighboring states) than go halfway across the country in this complex situation. And another reason in my case that airlines are losing out is because they’ve dropped flights to smaller cities, meaning I might as well drive, because the flight I would have taken to a smaller city doesn’t exist right now because of flight cutbacks. I would have flown if those flights were still flying.

  2. John Aldeborgh

    July 30, 2020 at 5:52 am

    While I fully support some federal regulations for flying, masks for example, it’s the spike in COVID-19 cases that have impacted the flight activity. As long as businesses are not allowing face to face meeting, as long as everyone is working remotely, as long as Americans are not allowed entry in to most foreign countries, as long as there is a 14 day quarantine for out of state travel, there will be no recovery in air travel or the overall hospitality industry. The Mainstream News isn’t helping either by constantly facing the flames of fear. The recent riots aren’t helping either, no one want to visit any big city in the US these days.

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