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How Airlines Take Covid Precautions For Flight Attendants

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If you have flown in the last 40 years or so, you know the drill. The flight attendant dangles a yellow plastic buttercup and demonstrates how to use it. You are instructed to make sure you put one on yourself before you put one on the child or other dependent person next to you. The message is pretty clear: you cannot take care of other people if you do not take care of yourself first. The irony of this command, repeated on countless occasions to travelers, is that flight attendants are now in the very position they have described so often. The flying public is slowly returning to the skies to resume travel and, indeed, make up for the flights they missed during 2020. Questions of safety—how to keep passengers from being exposed to Covid-19—remain a significant concern for the airlines. However, remembering the yellow cup, first flight attendants must be protected.

Covid Conflicts End Up In the Legal System

You may remember during the pandemic year that legal issues involving Covid-19 found themselves in the news and even in the courtroom. There were cases of individuals and industries using the legal system to define proper and necessary behavior during the pandemic. On every level, from local courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court, regulations and restrictions were hashed out amazingly quickly, especially given that attorneys, judges, witnesses and court reporters in Portland all participated in these proceedings remotely. While eventually the legal issues were settled and virtual courtrooms returned to their prior items of business, it was clear that legal dispensations had no impact whatsoever on the spread of the virus. With the Covid-19 variants emerging around the world and traveling about in airlines, protecting the flight staff who cared for passengers remained a real issue.

Flight Attendants Have the Greatest Risk

In case it was assumed that the danger to flight attendants was theoretical or anecdotal, a World Economic Forum/Visual Capitalist study researched almost 1000 non-health provider jobs and found that those jobs most at risk for encountering Covid-19 were transportation workers. The average score was 30.2 and transportation industry workers scored 75.7. Of transportation workers, flight attendants are most at risk. Not only do attendants interact quite closely with travelers multiple times on every flight, but they are in proximity to passengers removing their masks to partake of food and drink.

Airlines Receive CDC Guidelines

While the regulations about what passengers can and must do vary by airline, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released an updated series of guidelines for airlines in May, 2021. Included in the document were:

Recommendations for how to handle passengers onboard airplanes who appear to have viral infections.

Requirements for all US flight crews and passengers to wear masks throughout the flight.
Reporting the presence of sick passengers to the CDC.
Requirement of testing incoming foreign travelers for Covid-19.
Recommendations that all flight crew members receive the Covid-19 vaccination.

Experts Speculate on Return to Normal Travel

Chances are when air travel—along with most businesses and gatherings of people for any purpose—shut down in March 2020, you expect things to return to normal in a few weeks or perhaps months. After a year came and went, like most you may have wondered if there would ever be “normal travel again.” Experts weighed in on the issue and estimated that it will take around two years for travel itself to return to its previous levels. Prior to the pandemic, about 2,000,000 people a day traveled on airlines.


While you may be itching to fly again, the reality is that the pandemic itself resulted in changes to American society that may have permanent impacts on air travel. Business travelers may resort to video conferencing. Some families may travel by car rather than flying. Airports and airlines are adding permanent precautions regarding sanitation that may dissuade some travel. When will flying return to normal? The new normal may already be here.

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