Obviously, there are a lot of risks and challenges associated with travel nowadays. I’m not just talking about the health risks of coronavirus, but also about the potential complications if you test positive for coronavirus while you’re away from home.
Passengers do not have to fly if they have coronavirus (even if a man recently died of coronavirus on a United flight), but the same is not true for pilots.
Airline employees have coronavirus problems
Of course, airlines want to reassure employees that they will be taken care of if they receive coronavirus while working. This is especially true outside the US, where the rules may be different from those at home.
This has been a major point of contention between management and unions at some airlines. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic we saw some pilots and flight attendants refusing to work with flights with COVID-19 test requirements on arrival.
They much preferred to be tested before departure than on arrival, because the concern was what would happen if it was negative before departure, but positive after arrival? Should they be interned in a foreign country? Should he be quarantined for two weeks?
I can appreciate the concern in general, especially since employees do not have much control over their schedule.
Of course, pilots have concerns about coronavirus infection
What happens when United pilots receive a coronavirus?
Skift has the fascinating details of a five-page note that shows what happens if a United Airlines pilot is out of the US for work and either tests positive for coronavirus or begins to show symptoms.
United’s policy for this situation is not exactly what I would have expected – I would assume that they will be quarantined no matter what, but instead the pilots will be transported home and medical treatment abroad will be avoided if it is not absolutely necessary.
United policy applies to pilots who test positive for coronavirus, have coronavirus symptoms, and / or report close contact for at least 15 minutes with someone who tests positive for coronavirus.
Those pilots are told to contact Medaire, which is a company that provides airline health guidance, as well as the United pilots’ chief office. Pilots should be quarantined in their hotel room during their time at the destination.
An effort will then be made to bring home the crew member on the next flight that has no passengers on it. Currently, airlines that operate a lot of cargo-only flights, this is not as strange as it would have sounded before. However, this is not possible if the pilots are in a country that does not allow those with coronavirus to fly.
If the pilot can board a flight without passengers, there are specific instructions to follow:
- Crew members working on the flight should wear N95 masks while the pilot gets on the plane
- All crew members should be at least 6 meters away from the infected pilot throughout the flight.
- The pilot should be placed right behind the economy on a narrow-body jet, or just behind the business class on a wide-body jet.
- The pilot can only go in front of the plane in case of emergency
- The pilot will receive a designated toilet and can obtain food from the kitchen, but that kitchen will not be used by other crew members; the pilot will have to serve himself and will be asked to disinfect the area
- Once at the destination, the pilot should be the last person on the plane
Sick pilots are trained to stand right behind the business class
It’s great to take an inside look at exactly how an airline handles an employee stuck abroad with coronavirus. I can appreciate how this is a general concern that pilots have.
Although I would never have guessed that this is the process of repatriation of stranded pilots abroad, I think it makes sense. If a pilot is healthy enough to get home, then putting him on a flight without passengers and with many precautions seems the best option.
What do you think about United’s process of bringing sick pilots home?