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Global Impact of the Coronavirus

Date: February 28, 2020

The rising cost of the coronavirus outbreak for business and the world economy is expected to become clearer as major companies around the world issue trading updates and reports on the manufacturing sector in China are released.  The world’s second largest economy, as reported by industrial activity, is expected to reveal a significant decline in factory output for the month of February largely as a result of quarantine efforts to contain the disease were put into place.  Overall, it is expected this will have damaging consequences for companies around the globe.

While the outbreak of the disease can potentially have a severe impact on both the economy and the market, the full scale of the impact will ultimately be determined by the manner in which the virus spreads and evolves – likely impossible to predict – as well as how governments worldwide respond.

At this point, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that falling passenger demand will likely cost the airline industry billions of dollars as global air travel declines for the first time in more than a decade. For us as Flight Attendants, the reality of these changes will be felt as United responds to these reductions.

Early this morning, citing the spread of coronavirus through additional confirmed cases, as reported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), to locations beyond mainland China and Hong Kong, United management announced a number of changes to the aircraft schedule for March and April resulting from the decrease in passenger demand for travel.  United announced the following suspensions/reductions in service:

China and Hong Kong:

Suspension of service between the U.S. hubs and Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hong Kong through April 30, 2020.

New reductions across Asia:

United will reduce capacity to Tokyo-Narita, Osaka, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei as follows:

  1. Suspension of LAX – NRT Service, effective March 8 – April 24
  2. Suspension of IAH – NRT Service, effective March 8 – April 24
  3. Suspension of ORD – NRT Service, effective March 8 – March 27.  March 28 service to Haneda (HND) will be inaugurated
  4. Haneda schedule is not affected (daily SFO-HND and, starting March 28, daily service to ORD, LAX, IAD and EWR)
  5. Reduction in frequency of EWR – NRT to five (5) times per week for period from March 28 – April 24
  6. HNL – NRT will operate using a 787-8, downgauged from a 777-200, March 28 – April 24
  7. SFO-Osaka which was expected to operate daily, will operate five (5) times weekly for period from March 28-April 24
  8. SFO- Singapore reduction to one flight daily for period from March 8-April 24. This represents a reduction of one daily flight.
  9. SFO-Seoul, South Korea reduction to three (3) times weekly for period from March 8-April 30.  This is a reduction from a daily operation for March and a twelve times per week operation that was planned for April.
  10. SFO-Taipei will operate using a 787-9 aircraft, downgauged from a Boeing 777-300, for March and April

As might be expected, United management has engaged with and will stay in close contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other health organizations and AFA-CWA as their ongoing evaluation of the aircraft schedule continues.

The safety and health of all Flight Attendants is a top priority of our greater Union, AFA-CWA, as the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19 spreads outside of China to locations around the globe.  As Flight Attendants working for a global airline, we understand we are all connected and events such as these simply do not happen in a vacuum.  There is no way we can isolate ourselves from the impact of these worldwide events.

We know the importance of being vigilant in all we do when travelling internationally, whether on business or pleasure travel. As reports of the continued spread of this virus become public, we must, in every situation, consider our personal needs first and take all necessary steps to safeguard our health. Our personal safety and health must be our number one priority.

And because we understand these global events are not taking place in a vacuum, we understand these reductions will impact all of us.  We share the concerns not only for the personal safety & health of our Members, but for our customers as well.  We know there are many questions and concerns about how the changes to the flying we have historically done will impact our individual and collective financial well being.

The situation is rapidly developing and changing. AFA, and in particular, our Safety, Health and Security professionals along with our AFA International Officers, are closely monitoring updates from the CDC.  We continue to press the industry through our respective airlines, for proper resources and procedures to not only reduce but to minimize the risk to working crews.

Here at United, prior to each working flight, Flight Attendants are required to review international entry requirements that are published and maintained on the company’s website. These change daily so it is necessary to review the list frequently and, at least, before the start of every pairing.

AFA-CWA has worked to produce a Communicable Disease Incidence Response Checklist which we have provided to all our Member airlines as a means of making strong recommendations to ensure Flight Attendants have the resources to fully understand the necessary precautions at their disposal.   Read the latest publication from AFA-CWA to learn how we are addressing the Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19) at afacwa.org.

Your AFA leadership is fully engaged with management on the changes released early this morning.  We will continue to engage management in discussions on how these changes may impact Flight Attendants and will work to explore options to mitigate their impact on our Membership.


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