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Flight attendants union: Halt leisure travel until coronavirus contained

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Flight attendants union: Halt leisure travel until coronavirus contained
Grounded commercial aircraft are stored at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., on Wednesday. All U.S. carriers have cut most flights and parked aircraft during the coronavirus emergency.  Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

April 24 (UPI) -- The head of a large flight attendants union has called on the Trump administration to end all non-essential flights until the coronavirus has been contained to stop the spread and protect its tens of thousands of members.

In a letter Thursday, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA urged the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Health and Human Services to bar all leisure travel until the virus is contained.

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"We call on lawmakers and regulators to take further action to limit the spread of the virus by restricting air travel to only that necessary to continue essential services," AFA International President Sara Nelson wrote in the four-page letter, addressed to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

"While this global system is integral to our modern economy, its essential inter-connectedness also provides a convenient pathway for opportunistic pathogens to hitch rides on unsuspecting crewmembers and travelers and spread all over the world.

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"As some of the most frequent travelers, flight attendants feel a deep responsibility to ensure that our workplace risks of acquiring and spreading communicable diseases are minimized as much as possible."

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Nelson said flight attendants have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been "hit hard" as at least 250 of the union's 50,000 members at 20 carriers have so far tested positive for the virus, and some have died.

"The scars run deep," she added. "Recent media reports document the guilt felt by those who question if we are helping to spread the virus, feelings of fear and grief as coworkers die and wonder about when this will all be over."

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The letter calls for the departments to mandate the use of masks by crew, employees and passengers on airplanes and in airports, as well as require employers to provide workers with personal protective equipment.

"We believe that ... ensuring air travel is not aiding in spread of the virus requires a halt to all leisure travel until the pandemic is brought under control according to health authorities," it concludes. " In addition, we request messaging from all leadership to encourage the public to end leisure travel until we have 'flattened the curve.'"

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Mannequins with face masks and designer clothing fill a window at a Diane Von Furstenberg store in New York City on September 8, 2020. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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