Canes Covering Coronavirus, Florida, Vero Beach

My parents are airline employees during COVID-19

Emmalyse Brownstein
Vero Beach, Florida
2 p.m. Thursday, April 23

My parents are airline employees during COVID-19

As the kid of a flight attendant and an air cargo load master, I see the pandemic’s effect on the economy and travel industry through a unique lens

These days, flights are canceling left and right from lack of passengers. And the flights that do take off are mostly empty. Boarding on many airlines now goes from back to front to avoid passengers passing each other in the cabin. Typical food services offered on longer flights are limited to avoid contact.

My mom, who has an underlying condition, had to make the choice between putting her bills or her health first. I’m glad she chose the latter by going on a temporary leave. But I know she’s worried about the future of the job she’s been doing for almost 34 years. In the early days of this pandemic, when she was still working, she would talk about how this time reminded her of the aftermath of 9/11 — no one was flying. Fast forward to now, and she says this is much worse.

My dad’s cargo job is deemed an essential service, so he still has to work. He flies out of Miami International Airport, and usually stays in Miami between his weekday flights. But now, he makes the 2.5-hour drive to and from our home in Vero Beach every time he has work to avoid unnecessary exposure. He’s not on commercial flights like my mom, and so luckily, he doesn’t come into contact with the general public. Nonetheless, he and his crew wear gloves and N95 masks. Last week, after landing in Trinidad, his plane had a mechanical issue. Usually a crew in this situation would go to a hotel. But because of the pandemic, my dad and his crew had to stay in the airplane for almost 24 hours until they could fly back to Miami.

The airline industry will take several years to recover. I, like many, have a hard time stomaching the thought of just how long it will take the rest of our economy and way of life to go back to normal.

The class of 2020 is rightfully concerned about the job market available to them. But I’ve even been thinking about its state when I graduate in 2022. Will it still be that way by then? Will I see those effects, even two years later? It seems naïve to think I won’t.


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May 4, 2020

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