American Airlines flight attendant dies of COVID-19, highlighting risks that airline workers have faced while helping get passengers home (AAL)

Grounded Planes American Airlines

A flight attendant for American Airlines died this week after
testing positive for COVID-19, the airline and its flight
attendants’ union confirmed.

Paul Frishkorn, 65, is the first American Airlines employee to
die of the novel coronavirus, and appears to be the first member of
a flight crew in the US to die of it as well.

Frishkorn joined US Airways as a flight attendant in 1997, more
than a decade before US Airways and American Airlines merged to
combine under the latter brand name in 2013. He was based in
Philadelphia, the airline said, and had underlying health issues
that made him more vulnerable to the virus.

The union that represented him, the Association of Professional
Flight Attendants, said Frishkorn had been deeply involved as a
representative with the unions at both American Airlines and US
Airways.

“Our industry, our airline and all of us have been affected by
COVID-19 in different ways,” the union said in a communication to
members. “But until now, we hadn’t lost one of our own. This loss
hits home in a very different, personal way from the
headlines.”

Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional
Flight Attendants, said in a statement that Frishkorn was “recently
spending time in the Philadelphia crew room, answering questions
and assisting our members through this difficult time.”

“Paul’s death sheds a solemn light on our profession as front
line workers,” Bassani said. “It underlines the risk to our members
who continue to work as ‘essential workers’ in the airlines.”

In a statement, American Airlines said it lost a “respected,
longtime member of the American Airlines family.”

“Our hearts go out to Paul’s loved ones, many of whom work for
American,” the statement read. “We are working directly with them
to ensure they are cared for during this extraordinarily difficult
time. He will be missed by the customers he cared for and everyone
at American who worked with him.”

There are about 120,000 flight attendants in the US, many of
whom have been balancing health concerns with the need to work as
the virus spreads.

As the outbreak has worsened, much of the US has locked down and
countries around the globe have functionally shut their borders,
leading to
plummeting travel demand
. Airlines have
slashed capacity and grounded planes
, and seen low load factors
on the remaining flights.

But throughout January and February, as the virus was beginning
to spread, flight attendants were still working with mostly normal
flights aside from cuts to China, South Korea, and Italy, where
outbreaks were most severe.

“With any sort of outbreak, flight attendants are always on the
front lines,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight
Attendants — the largest flight attendant union, which does not
represent workers at American Airlines —
previously told Business Insider
. She said that although
airlines had mostly been proactive about protecting flight
attendants, an inherent risk remained.

Are you an airline employee with thoughts on the current
situation? Contact this reporter at
dslotnick@businessinsider.com.

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Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
American Airlines flight attendant dies of COVID-19, highlighting risks that airline workers have faced while helping get passengers home (AAL)