April 10, 2020 - About 100 American Airlines flight attendants have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents more than 27,000 American Airlines workers.
The union messaged its members this week and said the airline has “agreed to start providing face masks for frontline team members while at work should you choose to wear one,” according to CNN. The union said masks would be distributed this week.
The union has been “pushing the company since January” to provide personal protective equipment, union president Julie Hedrick told CNN on Tuesday.
The airline hasn’t commented directly about the number of flight attendants who have tested positive or the union’s claims.
“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority,” the airline said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials and are coordinating with them on any required health and safety related measures. We continue to look at all ways we can care — and protect — our team during this stressful time.”
Two American Airlines flight attendants have died from COVID-19. The first, 65-year-old Paul Frishkorn, was the first in the U.S. to die from the disease, according to Business Insider.
Due to major cuts in the industry, about 1 in 4 flight attendants will likely fly in May, the APFA told members. As part of the coronavirus relief package, airlines are prevented from furloughing employees, according to CNN. At the same time, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said last week that many employees will “be at minimal paid hours for months to come.”
Also in the industry, about 600 Southwest Airlines employees have tested positive, according to ABC affiliate WFAA. Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents flight attendants from Southwest, American, Allegiant, Atlas and JetBlue, confirmed the number, but the airline said “far less than 1%” of the company’s 60,000 employees have tested positive.
However, the airline declined to give the exact number due to privacy concerns, according to WFAA.
“Our flight attendants, mechanics, and ground operations workers are essential, frontline employees who have continued to report to work throughout the Coronavirus pandemic,” the Transport Workers Union of America wrote in a statement on Monday. “These individuals are heroically putting themselves in harm’s way in order to provide essential services. Without them air travel simply would not be possible.”