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Onboard Service Expansion

Date: May 14, 2021

Cautiously and with optimism, we may be beginning to see the “new normal of aviation and travel.” It is true that vaccine distribution has expanded and as more people become vaccinated, we will continue toward herd immunity and ultimately the goal of better controlling the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Despite this hopeful news, the pandemic is far from over. We all must accept that the world is not reopening for business and travel because the danger has passed, it is reopening because many of us have learned successfully how to manage being in proximity to others effectively while, at the same time, remaining safe. 

As we are a part of a much larger global transportation community, it is up to us to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on the airplane and amidst the traveling public.

Unfortunately, many states continue to roll back social distancing and mask guidelines in favor of more relaxed standards. Those same passengers with a higher risk of exposure, many of whom are also declining to be vaccinated, are flying on our planes.

United announced Wednesday, May 12, that they would begin the next phase of onboard service by reintroducing the sale of alcoholic beverages beginning June the 1st in addition to the return of food sale availability and complimentary meals beginning June 15. For us, this means extended and potentially increased contact with passengers contact throughout our workday.

More interaction with passengers through the distribution of various service items and ultimately the collection of these used items and the food packaging refuse raises the potential for contact with passengers some of who may be COVID-19 asymptomatic or unvaccinated.

We continue to share your concerns as it relates to those passengers who are still having issues with general mask compliance.  In many cases, these passengers are unwilling to follow the “dip and sip” guidelines and continue to remove their mask for the duration of their meal, or snack, despite polite but firm, requests from working crew, to remain complaint. 

We understand the pressure United is under to return to profitability and to match the food and beverage sales of our competitors. Our ongoing advocacy for all phases of flight has been for United not to implement changes that put Flight Attendants at risk. To that end, just as we’ve said all along, if you encounter issues with mask compliance (or any compliance), we need to document these.  If, as a result of the return of more alcohol and food, we are seeing an increase in non-compliance, it needs to be documented. 

We have been clear that mask compliance becomes more difficult when alcohol is introduced.  And while we may need to live with the reality of alcohol returning, we should not be required to live with the consequences of being the mask police when people use poor or impaired judgement. United’s number one priority has consistently been to safety which we will continue to insist includes keeping us safe while providing us the tools and support we need to make that happen.

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