United flight attendants don’t want pre-departure drink service to return, but insist it’s not laziness

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United Airlines flight attendants are resisting the carrier’s decision to reinstate pre-departure beverage service for premium passengers on all major flights from November 23, but the union that represents the crew of the based airline in Chicago insists it has nothing to do with flight attendants being lazy.

In a widely shared internal note, it was revealed earlier this week that United plan to restore a host of additional service items ahead of the pandemic, including proper glassware and pre-departure drinks.

For now at least, United are planning to restrict pre-departure beverage service to pre-poured water or sparkling wine, but the Flight Attendants Association (AFA-CWA) fears the Covid cases could are already on the rise in Europe and infections are starting to break out. Crawling across the United States, the airline misplaced the rollback of pandemic protections.

At the start of the pandemic, airlines cut in-flight service so flight attendants could have as little interaction as possible with passengers. Based on what we knew at the time about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, encouraging social distancing and reducing in-flight service has been widely encouraged by health authorities.

But US-based airlines have been much slower than many other carriers to restore pre-pandemic service elements despite universal masking, widespread vaccination, and access to new and sophisticated treatments for COVID-19 that dramatically reduce hospitalization and death rates.

While many of United’s international competitors have been offering pre-departure drinks for months, United is one of the first US carriers to re-commit to the once-familiar welcome drink.

The flight attendants union’s argument against pre-departure drinks, however, is an interesting one. Following testing in August, the AFA opposed the reintroduction of pre-departure drinks for two main reasons.

The first reason was the obvious degradation of social distancing as flight attendants have to get close to passengers while on duty, while sneaking past customers boarding the plane.

The second reason, however, was more interesting. Customers, who are required by law to wear face masks, board planes and are immediately confronted with rows of premium passengers without masks sipping their welcome drinks.

“This created ‘visual’ is in flagrant contradiction to messages passengers were exposed to prior to boarding about the need to keep their noses and mouths masked due to federal regulations,” the union wrote. in a message to its members. Friday.

“We have expressed our concern that this will only present additional challenges for flight attendants seeking to comply with the federal mask mandate,” the memo continued.

Last week, a woman was accused of assaulting a United Airlines flight attendant on a flight from Anchorage to San Francisco because he asked another passenger to adjust his face mask so that ‘it covers both his mouth and his nose.

The Association of Flight Attendants has been a big supporter of President Biden’s federal face mask and has called for the term to be extended. it is currently expected to remain in force until February 2022 at the earliest.

“Lest our objection to the return of this service become distorted, we want to say from the outset, it is not the flight attendants who do not want to offer this service to passengers on the plane,” insisted the union Friday.

“None of the United Airlines employees more than the flight attendants want to return to a sense of normalcy on the plane as soon as possible.”

And AFA says many United customers will agree with them that now is not the time to reinstate pre-departure drink service. AFA says customer satisfaction scores are proof that pandemic-related safeguards are something customers value.

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Mateusz Maszczynski


Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the Middle East’s largest airline and flew throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centered stories. Always listening to the field, Matt’s news, analysis and media coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.



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