Flight attendants explain how COVID-19 has affected their jobs

  • COVID-19 continues to pummel the airline industry as the virus spreads, and people are urged to stay home and not travel.
  • We spoke with Maria, a flight attendant who works for Pakistan International Airlines, and Brenda Orelus, a flight attendant and owner/founder of Krew Connect, to see how the coronavirus is affecting their jobs.
  • For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, see Business Insider's live updates here.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.

Maria: We are risking our lives to bring your loved one home. Brenda Orelus: Aviators are going out every day as essential workers, taking you to and from your destinations.

Narrator: COVID-19 continues to pummel the airline industry, and people are urged to stay home and not travel. Airline workers around the world are feeling uncertain, both for the security of their jobs and for their own health.

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Orelus: In my six-year history of being within aviation, I've worked with two different airlines, I have never seen such widespread suspension of services.

Maria: Most of my coworkers, they are concerned about their upcoming salary and everything if they are not going to fly.

Narrator: Airlines around the world have had to adapt to new restrictions on where they can fly, and many are not flying at all. Orelus: I have been monitoring this entire spread of COVID-19 since it was impacting the Asian carriers. And like what we saw with the Asian carriers, we saw heavy furloughs, heavy unpaid leaves, and then, in the worst of the instances, the closure of some airlines. So that was just the natural matriculation of what happened in the Asian market.

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Maria: Now they are going to give me other flights, and maybe I'm not going to get more flights because now we have whole lot of crew available. They cannot accommodate everyone, so most of them will be on standbys and most of them will be flying, so it depends what is going to happen next.

Orelus: I absolutely 1,000% believe that we're gonna have airlines that survive. They're just gonna cut their losses, shrink a little bit, you know, maybe have some unpaid leaves here or there, but they're gonna able to manage and push through. And then I also know that there's going to be the airlines who, unfortunately, this is gonna be the straw that broke the camel's back, and they're going to have to close their doors. I know things are gonna get a little bit difficult for a little bit, but I do, do hold firm that we're going to bounce back.

Narrator: Relief is coming, though, at least for US airlines. As a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, airlines will receive nearly 60 billion in financial assistance on the condition that they will not furlough or lay off employees until September 30. Airlines have also adopted new policies to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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Maria: All flight attendants are wearing gloves and masks because this is the procedure now. We do have to follow it on every flight. We have to. Even if we find, on any flight, any passenger who is coughing or he/she is feeling unwell, we do provide them with mask and gloves. We also provide them sanitizers and stuff like that. To wear that mask, like, for consecutive eight hours, and for if we are flying to Toronto, for, like, consecutive 14 hours, on your face, it's quite tough.

Orelus: One of the things that we see system-wide and across the industry is the allowing of wearing facial masks, as well as hand gloves. This is something that historically, traditionally would've been frowned upon, but given the light of the circumstances and just not knowing how the virus is transmitted all the way, we wanna take those extra precautions.

Maria: We have to take care of ourselves, because this is the only way we are keeping our family safe as well, because at the end of the day we are coming back to our family, right?

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Orelus: I see all airlines across the board not taking this lightly, because, in our industry alone, we have to have a hypersense of cleanliness, just because it's confined quarters, recirculated air, all those things. So you wanna make it's as clean as possible, making sure that we have filters on board, making sure that the airplanes are getting cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis, if not every shift. So, I think industry-wide we're seeing all airlines taking sanitation of the aircraft and of the most frequented, like, touched places very seriously.

Maria: Deep cleaning of the aircraft, that is very necessary. Everything, they clean it so well, and they provide with hand sanitizers on board and the gloves, the mask, and everything like that.

Orelus: I have flown a flew different airlines, and I have seen some airlines offer closed water bottles with the snacks as their service, their modified service. I've had one airline that gave you a water bottle and a snack, and they issued that as I boarded, which was interesting.

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Maria: I am very stressed right now. Honestly, I am. I wasn't able to sleep last night properly because I was extremely stressed, what if I am going to catch this virus? What is going to happen?

Orelus: I find that the people, the aviators who were here for 9/11 or maybe the bankruptcy of 2008, they seem to be more along those lines. They're level-headed, they're just kind of like, "You know, we've been through this before. We understand that aviation is cyclical, so we're just gonna take it a day at a time and then, don't worry, we're gonna bounce back."

Maria: When I woke up in the morning, I told my mother that, "Please stay away from me," since she is a diabetic and she's 50 above. So, even though I have a separate room, but still I told her not to hug me, not to come in my room. Nothing is certain right now. So I am stressed, definitely stressed, very much stressed.

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Orelus: Right now, aviators are going out every day as essential workers, taking you to and from your destinations.

Maria: We are risking our lives to bring your loved one home. We cannot stay at home. It's not that easy. Most of the people, they only think we are only, you know, having fun and it's full of glamor and fun and party and that. It's not.

Orelus: We wanna encourage you guys to practice social distancing, and also don't fly if you don't need to. If you feel sick, if you don't feel, if you feel like you're, even if it's just a little clammy, stay home, because aviation professionals are the ones taking you to and fro, and you're increasing their risk of transmitting this disease all over the world. As a direct response to the impact that COVID-19 is having on the aviation community, Krew Konnect has launched an Aviation Relief Fund, and this fund will raise money to go directly to frontline employees who have been adversely financially impacted by this virus.

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