DALLAS - Hundreds of flight attendants employed by American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, their unions have claimed.
About 100 air stewards employed by American Airlines have been infected with COVID-19, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA.) The organization represents 28,000 flight attendants employed by American Airlines.
The reported number represents a small fraction of its membership, but the APFA emphasized that the union hopes to “make everyone realize the seriousness of this threat” by spreading word of the diagnoses, the organization explained in a recent letter to members, the Dallas Morning News reported on Tuesday.
“COVID-19 is a deadly global pandemic, and it has impacted our health, and now our financial livelihood, negatively. Without a doubt that number will increase in the following days and weeks,” the APFA said.
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for American offered Fox News the following statement on Wednesday:
“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority. We are in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials and are coordinating with them on any required health and safety-related measures,” they said. “We continue to look at all ways we can care – and protect – our team during this stressful time.”
The APFA has been calling for strong “precautionary actions” against COVID-19 since January to protect both flight crew and passengers from the virus.
A representative for the APFA was not immediately available to offer further comment on the latest updates.
In late March, the carrier announced that a flight attendant passed away after testing positive for COVID-19. The Philadelphia-based steward was 65 years old, and was reportedly the first employee of the carrier to die after contracting the virus.
On Tuesday, reports surfaced that a second American Airlines flight attendant died from the novel coronavirus, per WFAA. The employee had allegedly been on leave from the carrier since 2018, a WFAA reporter shared on Twitter."
In related headlines, TWU Local 556, the union for flight attendants employed by Southwest Airlines, has alleged that “at least 600” Southwest employees have tested positive for COVID-19 during the global pandemic, according to the outlet.
When reached for comment on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Southwest told Fox News that the estimates were inaccurate and said “far less” had tested positive for COVID-19.
“The safety and well-being of Southwest’s employees and customers is our uncompromising priority, and Southwest continues to implement measures to maintain our aircraft cabins, airport locations, and work centers to the highest cleanliness standards, including following all CDC guidelines, during this unprecedented time,” an airline representative alleged. “Currently, far less than 1 percent of more than 60,000 Southwest Airlines employees have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
TWU Local 556 was also contacted for comment.
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