Delta Says To Sick Flight Attendants: “Don’t Post” On Social Media Or Inform Another Crew

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Delta Air Lines has ordered flight attendants who test positive for the coronavirus to “refrain from advising” other crew members or to post health information on social media, according to an examined email by HuffPost.

The email, sent Thursday afternoon to more than 25,000 flight attendants, said Delta management will “follow an established process” to alert co-workers who have recently come into contact with flight attendants who are “symptomatic or diagnosed with COVID-19, ”the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

“Please refrain from warning other crew members by yourself,” said the email sent at 2:20 p.m. EST. “Once you have completed the reporting procedures listed above, officers will follow the established process for informing the flight attendants involved. ”

The email provides phone numbers for hotlines to report diagnoses and notify management of plans to take an absence, and urge employees to “please make sure you complete these actions as soon as symptoms occur. “

Ethan Miller via Getty Images

The nearly empty check-in area of ​​the Delta Air Lines terminal in Las Vegas last month.

But the instructions also warn against sharing information on social media or the company intranet: “Please do not post your medical condition on social media (including SkyHub). ”

“Employees have freedom to speak up on their health,” a flight attendant, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being dismissed, told HuffPost on Thursday evening. “No employer can withdraw this. We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, our colleagues and all those with whom we come into contact. “

At 9:00 am on Friday, Delta said it posted an update on its employee intranet asking flight attendants to allow management to manage the communication of new infections because “we take responsibility for informing all of our employees about Delta seriously and have a solid protocol in place to ensure we get in touch with anyone potentially exposed to provide support. “

“Indeed, it was not our intention to confuse flight attendants about this,” Delta spokesperson Morgan Durrant told HuffPost by email. He added that “there are no plans to penalize anyone” who violates the protocols.

Aat least one flight attendant said they received a call from Delta’s human resources department about social media updates they posted about a colleague who is currently on intensive care ventilator, but HuffPost could not independently verify the details of the conversation.

HuffPost obtained audio from voicemail received by another flight attendant who contacted a colleague who tested positive for the virus. Two-minute voicemail from an employee at Atlanta headquarters in Delta alerts the flight attendant that “he may have been exposed in the past 14 days to someone in your recent rotation who may have had symptoms of COVID-19 ”, but encourages them to continue working.

“I am sharing this information with you to inform you,” said the caller in voice mail. “We have assessed your exposure level, and for this reason you can continue to fly while self-monitoring for 14 days. “

The coronavirus is very contagious and can be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals.

The updated procedure took place one week after leak of a revealed video that a Delta executive ordered pilots who tested positive for the virus not to diagnose crew members. The video drew fierce criticism from flight attendants, whose attempts to unionize with the world’s most revenue-generating airline have been fiercely opposed by management.

“It’s a sad, sad situation that flight attendants and other Delta employees – ground workers, ticket agents, ramp services and mechanics – don’t know if they can trust the ‘business now’, James Carlson – deputy airline coordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union with which Delta flight attendants seek representation – tell HuffPost last week.

Since then, the number of pilots tested positive has almost doubled to reach 57, according to figures reported Friday morning on the pilots’ union. website.

The airline industry is facing a dramatic upheaval in the pandemic. Congress approved $ 50 billion in assistance to passenger carriers as part of its $ 2.2 trillion emergency relief program. But as layoffs increase, analysts say the only hope of avoiding further job cuts is a rapid return to normal air travel, a scenario that seems unlikely in the coming months as the disease continues to spread and that the death toll increases.

Flight crew unions, meanwhile, called for additional measures to limit unnecessary air travel. On Monday, the Flight Attendant Association-CWA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association call for “Stopping all pleasure travel. ”

“We are calling for a coordinated government response, we are calling all of our airlines, and we are also asking the leadership of the DOT and the FAA to let the public know that we do not need pleasure travel at this time”, said Sara. Nelson, the mighty leader of AFA-CWA, the country’s largest flight attendant union.

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