An American Airlines flight attendant said she was forbidden from wearing a face shield because it didn’t fit with the company’s “image standards” — and would make passengers uncomfortable, according to a report.
The woman recently returned to the skies after being grounded for a month due to coronavirus-related cancellations, but found out that someone who tested positive for the illness was aboard one of her flights, the Boston Globe reported.
The Boston-based flight attendant, who identified herself by her first name, Marie, 33, bought an $8 face shield to protect herself and others for her May 2 flight to Dallas, according to the newspaper.
“Gonna kick some ass!” she wrote on Instagram, where she posted a selfie wearing the plastic shield over an N95 respirator mask.
After a few flights wearing the PPE, Marie said her bosses told her the safety gear didn’t fit the carrier’s “image standards” and spooked the passengers, she said, adding that she was told she could take a leave if she felt unsafe.
Marie said that even though she felt intimidated, she continued wearing the shield until the airline last week issued a message that shields “could pose a safety hazard, making it more difficult for crew members to respond to an emergency,” the Globe reported.
The airline officially banned such shields, but Marie said the risk is actually greater without them.
“I think it’s a safety hazard for us to not protect our entire face for every second we’re on a plane,” Marie told the news outlet.
“Carriers like mine are going to create another devastating second wave of this deadly virus because we are not being given appropriate PPE to wear. … I can see this virus spreading like wildfire throughout the cabin,” she added.
American Airlines and other major US carriers say they are limiting capacity amid the pandemic – but about one out of 12 flights are more than 70 percent full, according to the industry group Airlines for America, the paper reported.
Louis Mendes Paiva, a systems engineer who flies often for work and wears a face shield on a doctor’s recommendation, flew with Marie from Boston to Charlotte last week.
“They should be encouraged to wear as much safety PPE as possible,” Paiva told the Globe about American Airlines crews.
American and other airlines have imposed a variety of safety measures, including requiring masks for flight attendants and passengers – but face shields, which protect the eyes, are not part of the plan.
“The FAA has not approved them for regular use onboard our aircraft, and the CDC does not recommend them,” the airline said. “No other US carriers permit flight attendants to wear face shields during regular flight operations.”
In a statement, the FAA said it “does not need to preapprove the use of personal protective equipment by flight attendants if the equipment does not impede the ability to perform required safety tasks.”
Marie’s union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told the Globe that its safety department “is working with the company now on this issue.”
A copy of an e-mail obtained by the paper from APFA’s safety chairman, Thomas Houdek, said the union was in discussions with American about giving attendants safety glasses.
Marie’s “derogatory postings” “predetermined the outcome of this case,” the email added, referring to her statements in social media.