Flying During a Pandemic
The first thing I saw walking up to the gate were two paramedics dressed in protective gear. They were talking to a passenger wearing a protective mask. The flight attendants exited the jetway and informed me that the passenger in question was coughing and made frequent trips to the aft lavatory. Paramedics confirmed that the passenger had a fever.
That was the start of what ended up being a two-hour delay. First, the flight attendants on our flight refused to board the aircraft. Then the cabin cleaners refused to clean the cabin. Only when a new cleaning crew arrived to disinfect the entire cabin did we board our twenty or so passengers and leave.
It was the second time in a week that I have had one or more passengers require paramedics upon arrival—the first time we had two sick passengers who had just got off a cruise ship. One passenger had to be removed by a straight-back.
The reality is that airline travel needs to shut down. You can’t tell a segment of the population to shelter in place and avoid gatherings of ten or more people but allow fifty or more people to get on a plane. And fifty is being generous. On my last three-day trip, we carried at most a hundred passengers total for all three days. There is a high probability that many of the people who are flying now are sick. They don’t want to get sick away from home, so they suck it up and do what they can to get back home.
Cabin cleaners are taking extra precautions, but cleanings between flights are not as thorough as cleanings done overnight. That puts our flight attendants at higher risk. I haven’t heard of any widespread illnesses among flight attendants, but I suspect that will change if we don’t stop flying.
I am well aware of the ripple effect of shutting down the airline industry. Millions of people, including me, will be out of a job. But it may be the only way to prevent spreading the Covid-19 virus.
The image gallery below is from my most recent trip.