Even in the best of times, flight attendants must be vigilant about their health and safety, as well as that of their passengers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, most flight attendants are taking sanitization and health precautions to new heights.
“We always cleaned before, but we are really clean now,” said Julie Kozma, lead cabin attendant with Jet Aviation Flight Services. She now reviews all the products being used to clean the cabin. Masks and hand sanitizer are always available on board, flight attendants are always masked and they get tested for COVID prior to every trip – and then again during a trip. New government regulations now require proof of a negative test no more than three days prior to returning stateside from international trips.
“We are also trying to minimize layovers,” said Kozma. International trips, in particular, now require more advance planning. Hotel room service is a priority everywhere, and a necessity in some countries where restaurants may be closed.
Kozma recommended working closely with the trip planner or handler for the latest COVID-related information on the countries that will be visited, including convenient locations for the cabin crew to get a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for the virus.
Lesley Revuelto, a flight attendant from the Dallas area, takes precautions to try and stay healthy.
“I try and get enough sleep, take extra Vitamin C if I’m feeling rundown and even take a decongestant prior to a trip to reduce my chance of getting sinusitis,” said Revuelto, who exercises when she can, but notes that many hotel gyms are currently closed.
Some hotels also have removed the coffee maker and microwave from their guest rooms, so Revuelto – who likes to ‘hunker down’ in her hotel room – also recommends checking on room amenities in advance.
Quay Snyder, president and CEO of Aviation Medicine Advisory Service, notes that although pilots are required to wait 48 hours before flying after receiving the COVID vaccine, flight attendants are not. Given that some people have reactions to the vaccine, Snyder thinks “it would be prudent” for flight attendants to also wait a couple of days before traveling.
For those flight attendants (or their passengers) who may be recovering from COVID, Snyder noted that being at cabin altitude can exacerbate breathing problems, inflammation and other concerns.
Some people also have noticed a post-COVID “mental fog,” and flight attendants need to be monitoring themselves for that as well, making sure they can perform all their duties, said Snyder.
“We are also seeing huge spikes in mental health problems,” he added. “It’s so important to reach out and get help if you need it, and to make sure you have a good diet and get good sleep.”
Christopher Babayode, a former 20-year airline flight attendant and an expert in travel wellness, said that shoring up one’s immunity is key.
“Sleep deprivation, jet lag, exposure to radiation and other hazards undermine immunity,” said Babayode. Maintaining as normal a schedule as possible – trying to eat and sleep at the same time every day, even while traveling – can be helpful, according to Babayode. “Find a routine that works for you, and try to stick to it,” he suggested.