On Monday, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants across 20 airlines, claims that Hawaiian Airlines is only allowing its flight crew to don masks when dealing with potentially sick passengers.
“Hawaiian must allow and provide masks and gloves to Flight Attendants during this outbreak, at the very least on flights to and from Asia,” the AFA said in a statement to Fox News.
“Starting Friday, the company said they are adding ’surgical masks’ to aircrafts beginning with international flights but they are still refusing to allow Flight Attendants to wear masks. This is unacceptable,” the AFA added.
Hawaiian Airlines, meanwhile, claims it is abiding by “[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance provided to airlines for this particular virus,” which recommends the use of masks “only” when dealing with possibly infected passengers.
“Hawaiian Airlines has been closely monitoring Coronavirus developments and following CDC guidance provided to airlines for this particular virus, including emphasizing to all our employees the importance of routine handwashing as an effective preventative measure to protect against it and minimize its spread,” the airline wrote in a statement obtained by Fox News on Monday. “The CDC only recommends the use of masks when assisting a passenger who may be showing symptoms of being ill. We always carry masks and gloves onboard our aircraft as part of our standard medical kits, which are reserved for use when warranted.”
The CDC’s current guidance for cabin crews, meanwhile, does in fact recommend the use of face masks for “tending to a sick traveler from China” or a “sick passenger with respiratory symptoms,” but does not specifically limit the use of masks to these situations.
Jaci-Ann Chung, the Honolulu president of the AFA for Hawaiian Airlines, told KHON2 that Hawaiian Airlines needs to revise its current guidance for the sake of its employees.
“Our airline is telling our flight attendants not to wear masks,” said Chung. “But they’re saying there’s a disparity if all these countries and airport employees are wearing masks. We’re not allowed to. We’re concerned about our own health and well-being as well as the passengers.”
Hawaiian Airlines was contacted for an updated statement on Tuesday.