- Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, blasted the Trump White House on MSNBC’s The Last Word for not effectively coordinating a response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the US.
- Nelson blamed President Donald Trump for putting flight attendants and the public at risk by making it harder for labor and the government to work together.
- Airlines have been working diligently to ensure air travel remains safe but cannot do so much without government coordination and assistance.
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America’s head flight attendant criticized the Trump administration for what she claims is a lack of coordination between the government and labor unions to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the US.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, praised the work of airlines during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word but accused the White House of not taking the outbreak as seriously as previous administrations did.
“The words that have come from the White House have put both [flight attendants] and the traveling public in harm’s way,” Nelson said.
Citing the lack of testing capabilities for COVID-19, Nelson first pointed to growing coronavirus spread that has transcended national borders and resulted in hundreds of US cases, saying the government’s inability to contain the outbreak “puts us all at risk.”
Nelson also highlighted the lack of coordination between airlines, unions, and the government through the White House to effectively implement “simple, good ideas” such as allowing airlines to stock additional quantities of hand sanitizer on their aircraft.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump repeatedly touts his swift action in the early days of the virus’ spread, saying that he closed the borders “early on” and against the advice of others in his administration.
Directives from the White House regarding air travel have been to deny entry into the country for non-US citizens who have traveled to China or Iran while requiring US citizens who have traveled to either region enter the country through designated gateway airports. US citizens returning from either country will be subject to CDC screening and may be required to quarantine for a two-week period.
Having worked with the Obama administration during the Ebola outbreak, however, Nelson believes the Trump administration’s response has been insufficient in protecting the public and that the government is ill-informed on the status of the outbreak because it isn’t talking to labor groups.
“We can’t even talk here with good information about what we can do in this country to be able to contain this,” continued Nelson, comparing her experience with the Trump administration compared to the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak. “So, I can’t even believe where we are today and I’m extremely disheartened that the President of the United States is putting [flight attendants] at risk, [flight attendants] jobs at risk, our entire economy at risk and not taking this seriously.”
Despite fears to the contrary, Nelson stated that airplanes and airports are among the safest locations due to the extra precautions being taken by airlines such as ensuring aircraft are cleaned and sanitized before and after flights.
“Ironically, going to airports and getting on planes may be one of your safest public locations because the airlines have been working with the unions and the people that know how to address these things for the last two months…”
A reduction in demand for travel has led to airlines around the world canceling flights and reducing service on even the most lucrative routes. British Airways recently reduced frequencies on its flagship London-New York route, a top business route that’s earned the airline over $1.1 billion in previous years, as businesses cut back on non-essential travel.
Some airlines have implemented travel waivers and are waiving change fees for future bookings in an attempt to boost consumer confidence in air travel. The reduced demand for travel has been evident in the increasing lower airfares for flights between Europe and the US.
While flights to affected regions in Asia and Italy from the US have been largely reduced, airlines are continuing to operate internationally and will continue to do so until demand dictates otherwise. Nelson praised the work of airlines in ensuring flying remains a safe form of air travel despite the outbreak.
“The airlines are working very hard on making sure that they are taking deliberate measures to do extra cleaning, follow CDC guidelines on that cleaning, and they have been interfacing with [labor unions] on that,” said Nelson.
“We can take this crisis on but not with this kind of chaos from the White House,” she added.