United Airlines becomes the first major U.S carrier to require all flight attendants to wear face masks during the coronavirus crisis
- United said the ‘proactive and aggressive’ measure is to keep everyone safe
- The carrier stressed it has enough masks to ensure crew have one mask per day
- Alternatively, flight attendants can wear a cloth face covering if they wish
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United Airlines has become the first major U.S. carrier to require all of its flight attendants to wear face masks while flying during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chicago-based company said that the ‘proactive and aggressive’ measure is to keep all staff and customers safe.
The directive is in line with the most recent advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has recommended Americans cover their faces when in public.
United Airlines flight attendants must now wear face masks while flying
United said that masks have been added to all aircraft to ensure flight attendants have access to one mask each per day on duty.
The airline told cabin crew that these will be replenished as needed and when supplies permit and that they have worked hard to ‘make sure we have enough supply to provide each of you’.
Alternatively, flight attendants are permitted to wear their own cloth face covering, so long as the fabric is in a solid, neutral colour.
United said that N95 masks (medical-grade masks) should only be worn by customers showing symptoms and ‘for the flight attendants providing direct assistance’, with the remaining supply of them left on board aircraft.
Flight attendants should wear masks at all times, said United, but it pointed out that they can be removed to perform certain duties, such as making an announcement.
They can also be removed in decompression situations when it is necessary to don an oxygen mask.
All flight attendants at United Airlines will have access to one mask each per day on duty
Flight attendants should wear masks at all times, said United, but it pointed out that they can be removed to perform certain duties, such as making an announcement
United said the ‘proactive and aggressive’ measure is to keep all staff and customers safe
A message from United Airlines to its cabin crew employees added: ‘True to our mission of connecting people and uniting the world, you all continue to provide essential service and have been at the forefront of supporting communities by helping get people and goods where they need to be, often to the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis.
‘At the same time, you continue to be diligent about the safety and social distancing measures we have put into place to mitigate against the spread of the virus and to ensure our people are safe and our aircraft are clean and sanitary.
‘This new initiative is in line with the most recent CDC recommendation that says wearing a cloth face covering is advisable when in public and when social distancing is difficult to maintain.
‘We understand that many aspects of the flight attendant’s duties, both on and off the aircraft, can make practising social distancing challenging, which is why this new initiative is so important.’
United’s announcement comes as the airline industry takes a significant economic hit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen travel demand shrink to essentially zero, airport traffic in the US plunge by 95 per cent and airlines lose billions of dollars.
Analysts anticipate airline earnings to decline by more than 200 per cent for the first quarter of 2019 – a stark contrast to the $1.8billion (£1.45billion) first-quarter profit a year ago.