Coronavirus Outbreak (2019-nCoV)

Updated January 27, 2020 with Arizona cases and Delta specific actions.

Flight Attendants are on the front lines of any communicable disease outbreak. AFA engages with airlines and worldwide health authorities to share information and put in place measures to mitigate risk and contain exposure. There are now five confirmed cases in the United States including Washington state, California, Illinois, and Arizona. Over the weekend, health authorities also advised the infection can be passed by individuals who are not yet displaying symptoms. 

Last week, AFA wrote to all AFA member airlines, as well as to CEO Ed Bastian, to coordinate efforts and encourage airlines to implement AFA’s Communicable Disease Checklist. This checklist is based on decades of experience and specifically addresses the unique issues with our workplace. While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) addresses over health updates and procedures for prevention, it often is not as specific as fully necessary for airline crew and with concern to airline operations.

Last night, Delta updated crew “either in a base that serves China,” or crew “scheduled to fly an out-of-base pickup to Beijing or Shanghai.” The update included information about screening passengers, precautions in Delta kitchens located in PEK and PVG, a double allotment of provisioned gloves, precautions at crew hotels, and advised Flight Attendants may individually decide “to wear a mask or not on a short-term basis for our China-flying routes only.” If you want to access the update from Delta, it was posted and sent last night at 8:17 pm Eastern Time, Sunday, January 26.

AFA continues to advocate for the procedures recommended in our full checklist.

If you are directly affected at Delta, AFA can help. Contact AFA EAP at 800-424-2406 to get assistance and be connected with our experts in Air Safety, Health, and Security.

United, Alaska, and other airlines are working literally by the hour with AFA Safety reps at these airlines. Flight Attendants are better supported this way. This is an example of the importance of having a union. And it is beneficial to the airline too as global threats like this are better mitigated and contained by working together. #StrongerTogetherBetterTogether

More Information on the Virus

The virus implicated in this outbreak is part of a large family of coronaviruses that circulate in animals and occasionally cross species barriers to infect humans. Past examples of coronaviruses that have infected humans and adversely affected international travel include SARS and MERS.

GRAPHIC: World-wide Coronavirus cases by the Wall Street Journal, sourced from local health authorities as of Saturday, January 25th at Noon ET.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated, “[w]hile originally thought to be spreading from animal-to-person, there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening. It’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people.” CDC also reports that since January 17, 2020 they have begun “implementing public health entry screening at San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports” and this week “will add entry health screening at two more airports – Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD).”

AFA is calling on all airlines to institute emergency measures immediately, including providing crew members the latest information regarding the 2019-nCoV outbreak, identification of signs/symptoms of illness (in oneself and others), and procedures to manage potentially ill persons – utilizing information from relevant U.S. authorities including the CDC, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and international authorities including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). We are also encouraging airlines to adopt AFA recommendations from our Communicable Disease Incident Response Checklists.

We will provide additional updates as more information is available. We will continue to press airlines for action on this as we work to keep aviation’s first responders, our counterparts in the flight deck, and our passengers safe and healthy.

Communicable Disease Incident Response Checklist >