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'We are at maximum risk': cabin crew on work during a pandemic

Flight attendants from different airlines told the publication Lenta.ru about working in the hottest conditions of his entire career, about the behavior of passengers, export flights, safety measures on board and their own fears.

Photo: Shutterstock

Since March 27, Russia suspended international air traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving only flights organized for the return of citizens from abroad, and some flights on behalf of the government. At the same time, amid falling demand from large airlines, the number of domestic flights also sharply decreased; some temporarily stopped all flights. Thousands of Russian aviation employees were in limbo, with virtually no livelihood. Names of crew members changed at their request.

"The number of flights has decreased tenfold"

Andrey, flight attendant

I work as a senior flight attendant at a major airline that operates international and domestic flights. The situation with the restriction of transportation led first to the closure of the first, and then to a decrease in the total number of the second. Passenger traffic also fell, we fly in half-empty airplanes, which is clearly disadvantageous for the airline.

The situation primarily affects those companies that specialize in international travel flights - they experience enormous problems because there are no flights, no money is earned, and airplanes need to be serviced, paid for rent, and for parking at the airport. It is clear that everyone has a financial pillow, but as soon as it melts, the airlines will go bankrupt - perhaps this will happen by the beginning of summer.

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Our company so far flies from the base city in different directions, but the number of flights has been reduced tenfold. If earlier we operated 250 flights a day, half of which are international, now it’s about 25. One flight a day versus ten previous ones.

Our salary completely depends on the raid - the time that the flight attendant works directly in the air. It is limited by sanitary standards - 80 hours a month, about what we do. But today, a number of airlines do not fly at all, and those that continue give 15-20 hours of flight per person. Accordingly, people get a fourth or fifth of their salary. Everyone understands that if in May they pay us at least 15 thousand, it will be still good.

"I saw a guy in a gas mask on board."

Now the number of passengers has decreased significantly, but in March there were a lot of them, especially on the "weekend" week. People went from Moscow to the regions: many were left without work, someone became expensive to rent an apartment, someone just decided to isolate themselves away from the metropolis.

Some areas remain popular now: in our country it is Perm, Ufa, Yekaterinburg, Krasnodar and Mineralnye Vody. Airplanes full of people still fly to the resort town.

If in March everyone flew without masks, now about 80 percent try to wear them, last week I even saw a man in a gas mask. On board, a slight tension is felt: God forbid someone coughed - the rest are asking to transplant them away.

Whenever possible, we seat people to maintain social distance. If one of the passengers has signs of an infectious disease, we are acting according to the regulation, according to which we are obliged to limit the potential infected from others, one dedicated flight attendant will work with him, who does not contact with other passengers and crew; if necessary, a separate toilet room is allocated. For such cases, there are all protective equipment on board, a special suit, and even a device for conducting non-contact pulmonary resuscitation, although I do not remember that it was once used.

During the pandemic, the entire crew was provided with gloves and masks, although in insufficient quantities - one for each flight. Soap in the toilets was replaced with antibacterial. That is probably all.

“Flight attendants are not afraid of the coronavirus. We have a good emotional temper: after each plane crash, when all the news is only that a plane crashed somewhere and people died, we go to work and smile at the passengers. Whatever you're feeling outside of work when you come on board, other people need to look at you and feel confident about what is happening. ”

Therefore, we continue to work, adopting modern realities: washing hands, changing gloves, maintaining cleanliness on working surfaces to minimize any risk of infection.

"Everyone remembers what happened when Transaero went bankrupt"

What the conductor really fears during the pandemic is the closure of his airline and job loss. Everyone remembers what happened when Transaero went bankrupt, and after it VIM-Avia: a huge number of people were thrown into the market who found it very difficult to find work.

“And today in our industry there is the possibility of an unprecedented explosion in unemployment. Imagine: if a person works as a hairdresser and his salon is closed, he can go to the next one, but what should the flight attendant do? Most regional cities have only one airline, and if it goes broke, there won't be any. ”

Specifically, many of us were asked to go on paid holidays, and many did so, because it is more profitable to relax than to work in the current conditions.

Many other airlines let people go on vacation at their own expense, someone just left on a small salary. People are forced to look for part-time jobs (unofficial, since we are forbidden to combine work), someone went to taxi drivers, someone to couriers. The problem is that money is still not enough, because we have families, children, loans, mortgages. For example, I have to give more than 50 thousand rubles a month to the bank, and some colleagues pay 60-70 each. No courier job will allow you to earn so much, even if you run around the clock in the quarantine city with an orange bag.

We very much hope that the government will provide the necessary assistance to the airline industry. So that at the time when it is over, people can safely fly around the country and the world, and we - as usual, meet them on board.

"People were outraged that they had reduced days of rest"

Alina, flight attendant

I worked on export flights when people were evacuated from countries closing their borders because of the coronavirus pandemic. We flew there empty, and returned with hundreds of tourists. Among them were those who bought last minute packages in order to have time to relax with families, with children and even with elderly parents.

Some flew there in the 20th of March, when tours, for example, to Dubai cost 30 thousand rubles. Everyone was warned that the country might close, that hotels would stop working, but then nobody cared.

“On board, many were outraged that their rest days were reduced: they planned to be at sea until April 2, and they were taken, for example, on March 30. They said: "We will sue, everything was paid for." Despite the fact that in Asian countries, for example, restaurants and beaches were already closed, swimming pools were sealed. "

“People broke down the doors and ran away, not waiting for the decision on self-isolation”

Upon arrival, we had a difficult procedure for getting out of the plane. It was necessary to fill out a large number of documents: a decision on self-isolation, a questionnaire arriving from abroad, a health passport, a card for passing tests, and then passengers were issued in batches in buses, before which they were treated with a special solution.

All this took three to four hours, people were tired and nervous after long flights, they had to explain to everyone how to fill out documents, and ask them to get in position and suffer inconvenience.

“Passengers treated the measures applied differently. Most of them believed that all this was nonsense, everyone on board was healthy, and in general they would rather be allowed to go home. That is why they have recently ceased to be admitted to the airport at once: there were cases when people broke down doors and ran away without waiting for the decree on self-isolation ”.

Therefore, many airports introduced very stringent requirements, not allowing those taken out from abroad to leave the plane until they passed all the necessary analyzes.

Recent flights have already been understood. Around the plane there were a large number of police, customs officers, so people sat quietly and complied with all the requirements.

“We understand that we are in the maximum risk group”

Upon arrival, passengers were required to take tests for coronavirus. Three days later, the airline was called and informed whether the infected had flown with us. So far there have been no such cases.

Flight attendants were examined one and a half hours before each departure: they measured pressure, pulse, temperature, only then the doctor gave permission. We understand that we are in the maximum risk group: 300 people are in contact with us in a confined space, therefore it is necessary to monitor our health.

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Airport security was different. In most regions, passenger items were carefully handled, in Moscow - almost nowhere, sometimes people were not even given a decree on self-isolation. There was a case when a flight from Tokyo did not fly to terminal F, but to terminal D, where there is no sterile area and doctors, and all 300 passengers calmly went home. In other cities, according to my observations, it was tougher and more disciplined.

“I have heard of cases in which colleagues in everyday life faced bullying due to fear of the coronavirus. There are memes on the Internet that we should be afraid, we fly everywhere and contact everyone, but all my friends and relatives support me, even the neighbors smile and ask how the flight went. Only my mother says: "Stop flying, quit and come home."

Now my colleagues and I, as well as thousands of other conductors, are in limbo: we do not know what will happen next. We don’t even know what they will offer us in May - a salary (from 12 to 20 thousand rubles), two-thirds of the salary, minimum wage (minimum wage) or nothing.

“I started repairing cars”

Alexander, flight attendant

We felt the situation with coronavirus in March, when the number of flights began to change. Moreover, this happened every day in an operational mode: by morning there were flights, by lunch they were canceled. One could come to work, hear that some airport had closed the landing, there would be no departure - and return home.

The number of flights decreased every day. If earlier there were about 60 a day, now it’s a maximum of 10. With the people who work, most just sit at home and wait for work. According to the plan, in April I had only one flight instead of the usual 12-15.

Therefore, I simply went on unpaid leave and flew away with my wife and child to relatives. We live in perfect self-isolation: in a country house with our own plot, we go for walks, feed the ducks in the lake and rejoice that we spend time together.

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I started repairing cars - I turned a hobby into a source of small, but income. Many colleagues, who were also sent on vacation without maintenance, did the same: someone began to engage in SMM, someone teaches English, one girl decided to become an agronomist and grow plants. To feed the family, now everyone does what he can. As they say, hold on.

We monitor the situation in the airline industry by news and groups on social networks. Most cabin crew have an optimistic mood, everyone is waiting for their return to work, although it is not yet clear when the situation will stabilize.

Do I miss the sky? My child is growing up, and there is no time to be bored. There is no time to even think about some kind of coronavirus. During the epidemic, I finally found time to just be with my family.

“This is not the first epidemic flight attendants have experienced”

Anna, flight attendant

Flights to “dangerous” countries (countries with an unfavorable situation in the coronavirus) were canceled back in March at the direction of the country's leadership. But until the last load, the planes were full.

“It was funny to watch the passengers: they came on board wearing masks and gloves, using antiseptics. And when they were brought food, they immediately took off all their protective equipment, at the end of the flight they already sat without them and left, throwing the used masks in the chair ”.

We were also constantly asked questions: are any of the crew members ill, are they at risk of infection. And each time we explained that we undergo medical control before departure and measure the temperature.

On the last flights there were passengers, among whom it was possible to conduct competitions for the best means of protection. Someone came on board in swimming goggles, someone in ski masks, someone in construction respirators - everyone protected himself as best he could.

But for the pandemic period, we increased the number of gloves so that we could constantly change them, and were given reusable masks with replaceable filters - probably for the sake of a uniform appearance.

This is not the first epidemic flight attendants have experienced. Before that, there was Ebola, swine flu - however, such measures as now, have never been taken. But I still think that we have already developed strong immunity, because we always work with a large number of people and are at a certain risk group.

“I got a coronavirus and decided to become a donor”

Novel, flight attendant

I did not work at the height of the pandemic, because I was on vacation in South Asia, and then in Europe - we have more than the 28 days laid down by the labor code. And when he returned, they discovered a coronavirus infection.

On the last day of my proper isolation I got a roommate and called a doctor to the house. She had signs of a sore throat, but the health worker still asked if she had contact with someone who had flown from abroad. So the smear was taken from me, and the result was positive (the girl, by the way, was negative). I still don’t know if I was really sick, everything was asymptomatic.

"Now I have already recovered from the coronavirus and decided to become a donor: I donated plasma for seriously ill patients and I will be glad if it helps save someone's life."

I heard that one of my colleagues also had the coronavirus, but there was no official information, the authorities did not comment on anything. I only know that there were infected passengers on our flights, and all crew members who were in contact with them were sent to quarantine for two weeks. They took tests, but all turned out to be negative.

There is little work at the airline now, there is only one regular flight left three times a week, and then there are rumors that it will be closed soon. Two pilots and 11-12 flight attendants work on each flight.

Most of the employees went on vacation, on sick leave, annual retraining, and someone sits on a salary of 11 rubles and is waiting for a “magic” flight, hoping to fly somewhere.

“My aviation friends started selling property.”

Anton, a former cabin attendant

I worked as a flight attendant for 11 years and quit last year. But my wife is a stewardess, I follow the news of friends and acquaintances, so I know what is happening in aviation.

In connection with the situation arising from the coronavirus, some airlines completely suspended flights, leaving employees on a salary - and he, as a rule, is even below the subsistence level, from 2900 to 12 thousand rubles. Who could, went on paid leave, but only until April 30, and then they will have to go on leave without maintenance. Someone was immediately released without content, and people were forced to look for a part-time job.

Some of the guys began to engage in private transportation, someone went to the company for the delivery of goods, but even there the recruitment of employees had already stopped. In order to get settled, one had to stand in huge lines from the former taxi drivers who were left without work.

Some aviation friends are already selling property - cars and motorbikes. Two sold cars and live on this money with their families.

Many guys who came from the regions wrote applications of their own free will, because they have no money to pay for rented accommodation. And it is not clear when air traffic will resume and what will happen next.

I must say that not all airlines took measures to protect their employees during the coronavirus pandemic: in one flight attendant they were not allowed to wear masks until official order and they began to be supplied only recently, in another they sent out messages to the quarantined employees will not pay sick leave.

During the coronavirus pandemic, flight attendants worked in difficult conditions, taking people out of troubled countries, putting their health and the health of their families at risk. And now these people are essentially left without support and risk losing their jobs.

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