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Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Testifies on Emergency Planning After Recent Flu Outbreak
Date:5/20/2009

WASHINGTON, May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) today testified on Capitol Hill regarding concerns that arose after a recent public health emergency and the summer travel outlook for this year. The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aviation conducted the hearing which focused on aviation consumer issues and emergency contingency planning during public health emergencies.

"We strongly believe that we must be given the tools and ability to play our part in slowing or preventing the spread of a potentially fatal disease outbreak," testified Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President. "As workers in a high risk environment we are entitled to protections in our work place, yet for far too long the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to protect those that work onboard the aircraft and continued to deny flight attendants common OSHA protections. As the front line employees in this industry, flight attendants have a unique day-to-day understanding of steps that can be taken to reduce the risks associated with a public health emergency in order to make the travel experience better."

After the recent health emergency surrounding the spread of the H1N1 virus, AFA-CWA requested that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issue an emergency order to all U.S. carriers requiring them to take specific steps to help flight attendants not only protect themselves from exposure, but also to minimize the possibility of inadvertently spreading disease during an outbreak.

AFA-CWA asked that the FAA direct airlines to follow three important steps: require that all aircraft be supplied with breathing masks and non-latex gloves at least on flights to, from, and within at-risk areas; that airlines allow flight attendants with flu-like symptoms to call in sick free from discipline; and allow pregnant or immune system compromised flight attendants the ability to change their scheduled trips if they involve flights to areas of the disease outbreak. Unfortunately, the FAA did not issue an emergency order and according to a recent survey, a majority of AFA-CWA carriers took little action on AFA-CWA's recommended plan.

"Many airline management teams still hold the outdated view that flight attendants are primarily a marketing tool rather then our federally mandated role as inflight safety and security professionals. Management appears less concerned with minimizing the risk of exposure to potentially dangerous illnesses than in minimizing the perception and appearance of a possible threat to health," added Friend.

For over 60 years, the Association of Flight Attendants has been serving as the voice for flight attendants in the workplace, in the aviation industry, in the media and on Capitol Hill. More than 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines come together to form AFA-CWA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.


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SOURCE Association of Flight Attendants
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