What it's like to be a flight attendant during COVID-19
May this blog post find you well dear readers. You guys are so incredibly sweet. I have had an influx of messages and inquiries as to my well being in light of COVID-19.
I am writing to share my experience during this time. In this blog post, I will strive to be factual. I do not want to induce panic or fear. This is just a report of how I am personally doing and what I have observed.
I am a flight attendant in the midst of this pandemic.
I am still required to report for duty, there is no luxury of working from home in my line of work. But because I live in Canada, I am very privileged to be protected by law and have access to free health care. I have the right to refuse dangerous work under the guidelines of the WHO, meaning I can deny to fly in certain areas that are at a level three. And if I fall ill, I have access to free health care. I am young and healthy. I am not at a high-risk of succumbing to this virus.
Having said that, I am exposed to a lot of people travelling internationally. I work with gloves on now and wash my hands frequently. Some have opted to wear glasses and face masks to work as well. Permission to do so is revolutionary to me because we were never allowed to do this before. When I first started, we weren't even allowed to pick up garbage with gloves on because of optics. So this is a wonderful change.
What it's like at the airports and on the aircraft
The atmosphere in the airport and on the aircraft is getting more tense as days go on. I have yet to report for duty since this situation has been declared a pandemic- meaning that it has reached the majority of the world. I have seen passengers in full bio-hazard gear at the airport, more usage of masks and sometimes even gloves. A lot of people bring their own hand sanitizer and wipes to clean hard surfaces that they will touch at their seats.
We have been following standard operating procedures in regards to communicable diseases and ask passengers who exhibit flu like symptoms to wear face masks. We also have had passengers request flight attendants for masks because others are coughing.
I have observed a lot of improper usage of face masks and hand hygiene in the past few months. In an attempt to protect themselves, I have seen passengers endanger themselves and others instead. If you choose to wear a mask, please educate yourself on how to wear one properly. The way that most of my passengers are wearing their masks only give them a false sense of safety.
One must always wash your hands if you put a mask on, touch it or remove it. If you wear a mask, do not touch it. If you do, you have to dispose of it immediately and clean your hands before putting a fresh mask on. You cannot reuse your face masks. If you would like a demonstration, feel free to watch this IGTV I uploaded to educate the proper techniques of mask usage, glove removal techniques and proper hand hygiene.
Personally, I have been wiping down equipment in the galley (kitchen area on the aircraft) with disinfectant wipes provided by my company. I have also observed that our groomers (aircraft cleaning crew) wipe down and spray down hard surfaces as well. The airport I am based out of is also being sanitized more regularly. We are provided with extra hand sanitizer, gloves, face masks in our own offices to bring on our flights.
On my last flight, we called our Station Operation Centre (STOC) for more gloves and our manager personally delivered it to the aircraft. I personally locked extra gloves for the return flight as things have gone missing when we land in a different base outside of Canada. This is so that my colleagues on the return flight will have resources for protection as well.
Should you travel?
I would follow the guidelines of you government or credible websites such as the WHO. I would advise against unnecessary travel at this time. Be sure to check on return policies if you are booking. Insurances may not be covering you if you are still opting to leave your country. Remember that hotels, Airbnb and airfares may not be refundable if you book during this time.
What is my situation now?
I came back from Munich, Germany March 12, 2020. I had a pretty good time as some of you know. I went shopping to three home decor stores, bought a ton of mustard and candy at the grocery store and took in the sights at Karlsplatz square. In short, I was in contact with a lot of people.
Now, you have to understand that the Canadian government is asking those who have traveled outside of Canada to give yourself a 14 day period to self- monitor for symptoms. And during that time, we should be separating ourselves from our community for the safety of others and to prevent the potential of spreading COVID-19.
However, my company has sent out a notice to our in-flight team that we are exceptions to this rule because we are not in the city for long. We are also advised to stay in our hotel room as much as possible. This was sent out the day after I landed.
After I came back from my layover, I decided to practice strict social distancing. I have since cancelled plans, and declined invites and rerouted events that were meant to be hosted out of my home. I will not be visiting my parents during this time because they fall under vulnerable people with health concerns.
I will be reporting for work again on March 17, 2020 provided that I am still symptom free.
Am I anxious and fearful? I would be lying to say I was not. However, I believe that God is bigger than this virus.
I want to change my motivations and actions to be one out of love and faith not fear.
I am doing everything I can in order to keep my community safe. This community extends beyond my own family and friends. I am responsible for my own actions and I know by doing my part I can make a difference.
I hope you are well. I am praying for this to be over soon. And as always, thanks for reading.