Single passenger flights – everyday problems for airlines


          Airlines cut back on drinks and snacks and allow flight attendants to wear gloves without being given them ...      

Airlines are cutting back on beverage and snack services and allowing flight attendants to wear gloves even if they are not receiving masks. PHOTO: REUTERS

Airlines are cutting back on beverage and snack services and allowing flight attendants to wear gloves even if they are not receiving masks. PHOTO: REUTERS

When Reuters photographer Carlos Barria boarded American Airlines flight 4511 from Washington Reagan National Airport in New Orleans on a mission, he was the only passenger on the 76-seat jet.

“There have been difficult times,” said Barria.

As when the gatekeeper announced a formal boarding process to remember that Barria was the only passenger on board, or when the pilot approached his seat to personally explain a delay in takeoff due to a mechanical problem, rather than speaking over the PA system.

The two flight attendants invited Barria to sit in a first class seat and attended the safety demonstration for Barria alone.

“I felt I had to be careful,” he said.

Nearly vacant flights have become the norm for American airlines, despite a drastic reduction in the number of planes they fly every day, as passenger traffic has declined amid the new coronavirus countries of the world.

Friday, American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) made 119 flights from Washington Reagan National; eight of these departures had only one passenger (including Barria’s) and many had only a handful, said an American official. On the same day last year, American operated 254 flights from the same airport.

“Soon we will even run out of people to cancel on US airlines,” US senior network strategy chief Vasu Raja told Reuters on Thursday.

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The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checked 129,763 travelers on Friday compared to 2.48 million the same day a year ago, according to daily data it provides on its website.

American airlines, which claim to consume money every day, have requested government assistance to help them deal with the wage bill and ensure they have qualified staff once the health crisis has subsided and demand has recovered.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 277,205 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, an increase of 37,926 cases from its previous count, and said the number of deaths has increased by 1 150 to 6,593.

Flight attendants continue to do their jobs, although some tell Reuters they are afraid of getting the virus and infecting the at-risk family at home.

One of Barria’s flight attendants said she would fly from New Orleans to her hometown of Miami, where she was to take her father for cancer treatment after his four-day rotation which included sleeping in hotels each night.

“Our elected officials want us to continue to provide safe air travel during this crisis … we must continue to fly as requested and serve those who need to travel,” said US chief executive Doug Parker in a video message last week.

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To protect passengers and crew, airlines have reduced beverage and snack services, increased cabin cleaning procedures, and allowed flight attendants to wear gloves, although they are not provided masks.

At the end of Barria’s flight, he felt camaraderie with the crew. “I thanked them for what they did and they thanked me for what I do,” he said.






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