Flight attendant union wants leisure travelers to stay grounded

Local News

(CNN) — A major union of flight attendants wants federal officials to discourage or even prohibit leisure air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA on Thursday urged the U.S. departments of Transportation and Health and Human Services “to take further action to limit the spread of the virus by restricting air travel to only that necessary to continue essential services.”

The letter also asked the agencies to require all travelers in airports and on airplanes wear face masks to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus.

DOT and HHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday afternoon.

Union President Sara Nelson told CNN that she would like to see the government and the aviation industry “sending the message that people should not be traveling for leisure purposes right now.”

She said 250 flight attendants and over 470 airport security screeners have tested positive for the virus.

While much of the nation remains under various stay-at-home orders, the traditional summer travel season is approaching. People cooped up in their homes for weeks or longer are getting restless, and some business owners and local officials are drawing up plans for re-opening.

According to Nelson, “air travel has always been coordinated at the federal level, never the state level, and so we have an opportunity to have policies in place at our airports and on our airplanes that are consistent across the country.”

The number of passengers aboard planes has plummeted to historic lows. Airlines are operating bare-bones schedules due to requirements linked to the $25 billion payroll bailout, as well as to move cargo and essential travelers.

The average number of paying passengers on each plane is increasing slightly from recent weeks, though not by enough to make operations profitable.

The Transportation Security Administration is screening about 95% fewer passengers than at this time last year.

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