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You can be next when airlines resume hiring. Read the following carefully.

We all have been caught by the coronavirus unprepared
and even the best plans to become a flight attendant
had to be put on the back-burner. 
Here is what you need to consider. 
Updated
MAY 1, 2020



First, never give up. It is worse than SARS. It is worse than 9/11. But life will go on and it would be a shame to give up on your dreams. As the British Queen Elizabeth II said in her TV address to Britons two months ago, this, too shall pass and we will meet again...

UPDATED 
JUly 29, 2020
THINGS HAVE NOT IMPROVED
When I wrote the first thing on coronavirus and the airlines in April, I was hoping that by Labor Day we'd be frolicking on the beach. As it looks now, we may be extremely lucky to have “normal” Christmas this year.

I was going to put the mask on for the picture to remind everyone how important it is to wear it. Do I wear it? Very rarely. Oh, you might say, are you the same kind like our President? 

No, but the building that used to be our training place, sits on four acres of desert land, and often I don’t see a person in this neighborhood for weeks. And if I do, it is just as they drive by and we just wave at each other. At 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit everyone keeps their windows shut. That makes self-quarantining easy, especially since I am busting my butt to stay on schedule with the museum, in the hope that we might even restart some flight attendant classes in 2021.

Aside from wearing masks, keeping social distance and staying away from crowds, there is not much else we can do to promote the well-being of other people – and ours as well. While it does not seem too much to ask, I just shudder, when I go shopping for groceries and to fill up my car with gas once a week, and I see so many people at the gas station without any face covering, hardly staying 3-4 feet apart at the cash register. And I wonder: What would it take to get them to do those three simple things that really are no skin off anyone’s nose? 






The original article written three months ago – still very relevant.
TIME TO BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND RE-THINK YOUR PLANS
A different “moment of truth,” a term coined by the SAS former CEO Jan Carlzon, has arrived. Do you want to fly badly enough that you might be willing to put your life on the line? It is a simple question when you ask a fighter pilot, but it is a lot more involved if you ask a flight attendant, particularly if he or she has a family.

Just as the airlines were running and humming making profit to the tune of billions of dollars and the U.S. economy was soaring to unprecedented highs, everything came to a standstill. The eerie feeling we had experienced during 9/11 and SARS epidemic found a stealthy way into our lives. All due to a new virus from the SARS family, yet a lot more potent and virulent, and deadly to thousands in most countries, totaling at the time of this writing well over 1.5 million deaths, and the number is still growing. Hundreds of U.S. flight attendants have been infected now and Paul Frishkorn, an American Airlines veteran flight attendant, was the first to pass away from the virus in mid-March. 

It took weeks for the airlines to realize the severity of the problem. Finally, flights were decreased to 
a bare minimum, flight attendants are given hospital-grade face masks and gloves and are urged to cut contact with passengers to a minimum.passengers to minimum

If you have entertained becoming a flight attendant-steward-stewardess-cabin crew – whatever you chose to call those of us who look after passengers on the plane – you need to ask yourself how much you really want that job, and are you willing to take the risks.

Dealing with terrorists actually may be a little bit easier than dealing with a rapidly spreading infection. You see the enemy with their weapons; the virus is invisible, takes a while to incubate and may hit our body with deathly force days or weeks after our exposure.

When I was in nursing school, I learned a few important things about infectious diseases. One was that while antibiotics were highly effective against bacilli, they did not work well against viruses. The second one was that it was not just the presence of the “bug,” but the number a person had in his/her body. Last, some reproduce faster than others, and some are more vicious than others. Not every “host” (a person affected by the bug) has the same immune system. That’s why we see that possibly 85% of the coronavirus dead are elderly with diminished immune system.

Those of us who have been flying during 9/11 and SARS remember well how long it took to get airlines back up to speed, and we know that this time it will take a lot longer. Most airlines – big and small – have already forgotten how they begged people to fly again after we worked on almost empty planes for months after the attacks. Yet, it did not take too long when planes filled again after 9/11 and airlines started to nickel-and-dime passengers. It brought airlines new billions in revenue, and inconvenience and extra expenses to passengers. Airline executives understand that this time around the negative effect of the virus will last a lot longer and promptly asked the government for a bailout.

Unlike before, however, this time the government - though opened to supporting the airline industry - does not plan to just “give” the airlines cash and loans; the government will require this time that either the airlines will pay back in some way or the government may take a stake in the bailed out companies. It would be nice if the government took this opportunity and re-wrote some regulations governing airlines, so when they are up and running, they won’t be able to milk the public again.

Currently, most airlines have cut their flights by 80-90%, both domestically and internationally. Some planned to furlough employees, but fortunately for us one of the conditions here in the U.S. was that if an airline gets government help, they have to keep people on payroll at least till the end of September, though the checks may be less. That’s better than the layoffs without compensation we got after 9/11 and SARS. That’s not stopping the airlines from asking employees to take leaves of absence without pay, early retirement or outright asking for a resignation where it is possible. So what can we expect?

First of all, one has to realistically look at the potential of the virus, projecting data from China, S. Korea, Spain and Italy since the beginning of December 2019 and consider that despite the fact that the Chinese number of infections is going slowly down now, a new wave is coming in from people returning to China from their travels abroad. So, in all fairness, unless there is a significant break in developing a vaccine and medications that might stop it and cure those that have been affected, the virus will be still “well and alive” in the U.S. in August or September, and we’ll be lucky if it is wiped out by next Christmas. I am not saying this lightly. I am saying this from my experience not just as a flight attendant during SARS and 9/11 but also as a 22-year nursing veteran, before I started flying.

It means that most airline hiring will remain frozen for months into 2021. Based on all this, and experience from aviation during 9/11 and SARS, which I remember all too well, we can expect airlines to do the following in the second half of this year:

Offer more unpaid leave of absence (LOA)
Significant furloughs if there are not enough LOA applicants
Early retirement will be offered
Possibly more domestic airline mergers 
Possibly, though unlikely, mergers among international airlines
Significant reduction of routes both nationally and internationally by all airlines in comparison with routes flown before the virus hit the world
More airlines going bankrupt

These changes would probably occur after September 30, 2020 when airlines will not be bound by the agreement with U.S. government if they are stable enough to avoid further government financial life support.

If and when routes start expanding again, there will be probably a wave of rehiring people who were either on an unpaid leave or furloughed (going by their respective seniority), and when it may be happening will vary. It will depend on the industry rebound, which will be definitely slower that after 9/11, and on the number of employees that were affected. It is because of these variables that one cannot tell at this time when hiring of new employees might occur. But that window might be as long as 5 years, like what we have seen after American Airlines absorbed TWA, though it was a different situation.

If you are currently a flight attendant and have low seniority (1-5 years, depending on the company), your chances at being furloughed (laid off) are fairly high, and you should not rely on living on unemployment when the time comes. If you feel that you might be getting the pink slip after September (or sooner), start looking for jobs elsewhere. In fact, it is a good idea to do it very seriously and diligently now, because a lot of the very senior flight attendants from other bases will be moving to bases where they may have a better chance of holding a line. Some bases, inevitably, will also be closing. That applies to most airlines with a significant number of flight attendants. 

There will be a big number of furloughed people looking for jobs; not just you as a flight attendant, but also people from other industries. The best advice I could give you is to find a job where demand and surplus does not fluctuate as much. Do some research on jobs in your area. You may like to take a few courses to qualify better for what there is. Do not wait till the ax falls and you’ll have to go on unemployment. Unemployment pickings are pretty slim and they are not forever. Also, it is easier to find a better job if you hold a job, rather than if you were on unemployment.

Keep in mind that some of the very senior flight attendants will be reluctant to retire, because from what I have seen, very few have any nest egg. Most of them have not thought about retirement till they grew older, and that is usually a little late to create substantial savings or investments. Most of them have lived from paycheck to paycheck.

So what does it mean for you, someone who just started thinking seriously about becoming a flight attendant? 

It depends. One of the variables is your age. If you are 50-55 and waited till kids are on their own before you apply for the flight attendant job, your chances of ever landing that job are now pretty slim. By the time the industry is up and running again, you will be a few years older. It is likely that airlines, though it is officially illegal in the U.S., will be looking for younger people. Why is that? 

Even if you are a healthy 55 young person now, you’ll be closer to 60 when there are new openings. Your health may not be the same, and you certainly (or at least theoretically) will not give your prospective airline the same amount of years as a 25-year old. The first signs of a life-time “wear-and-tear” on your body will be more pronounced, and being a flight attendant requires good physical stamina. You do not want to work for a few years and end up on disability (it does happen).

If you are 20-35 years old, you have great chances – eventually. It would be great (if you are serious enough) to start getting ready for the application and interview process now when you are not pressured, and see if the job is really for you, with all its ups and downs, like today’s situation. It never hurts to be prepared and ready. Make sure you have a good resume ready, keep your passport current, have all documents in order and all in one place. Because when hiring starts, there may be only a 24-hour window on the internet when to apply and you’ll need to have all these things ready, and be ready for any question in your interviews.

And, in a culture like ours in the U.S., chances are that right now you live from paycheck to paycheck and have some balance on your credit cards. Use the “waiting time” to get into a better financial shape and save up enough so you can tide over the first three months after you start airline training. You will most certainly not be paid for training by the airlines like it used to be. Airlines know they will have enough applicants to stop paying them at the end of training. 

You may not get the first paycheck for some 30 days after you leave training. It won’t be a huge paycheck. You need to be able to stay financially afloat. Tighten up your belt now and start saving, this is a good time to do it. Restaurants are closed, movie houses and bars are closed, most countries overseas are closed to vacationers, so stay home and save.

But most of all, take care of yourself and do your part in getting us all through this catastrophic period in a good shape. Maintain the “6 feet social distancing” as long as it is needed. I liked New York’s Governor Cuomo’s slogan: “Keep six feet apart or you’ll end up six feet under.” 

Follow the government strictest requirements – it does not matter whether it is local, county, state or federal government - stick to the strictest rules to improve your chances. Remember that wearing a mask over your nose and mouth protects both you and those around you when you go outside. Some states see the light and order compulsory face masks, under heavy penalties. 

Help those who can’t do much for themselves, disabled people or the elderly in your neighborhood. We all are in it together – that’s not just a catchy slogan, it is the sad truth. Do as much shopping as you have to at one time to stay at home most of the time (self-quarantine works both for the young and the old).

For all of us, the most important task and goal now is to get through this pandemic healthy. And when we do, you’ll see the rest “is a detail.”

Tom Janovsky
Midnight Flight Airways

If you have questions or comments, contact me through this website or e-mail me at tomjanovsky@yahoo.com

A death of a loved one, who dies from the virus? A threat of imprisonment (for which they might be immediately ready with a concealed gun – after all, the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to poses a gun, and not wearing a mask is an expression of the “free speech” just like other stuff, adult pornography included)?

I wonder about the same stuff each time I return to our L.A. home and I try to walk my dog at odd hours in a nearby park, when it is cooler, wearing a mask. I wonder because I see joggers and bikers without masks, and not all (though most do) dog owners wear a mask. But then not all dog owners pick up their dog’s crap, either. After all, we live in a “free country.”

Those three things can demoralize anyone; situation in less fortunate countries (very unfortunately called “third world countries” because a lot of fine and honest, hard working people live there). We should constantly remind ourselves how advantaged we, in the U.S. are, compared to those people. It’s even more tragic when one sees how the meager international support for these countries disappears in the pockets of ruthless warlords. That’s today’s world we live in.

Tom Janovsky
As for this country, perhaps with the exception of a few transportation and shipping companies and internet fulfillment centers, there is not an industry that would not be hit hard. Retailers at all levels, but mostly the small “mom &pop” stores, are shutting down. And airlines, as at other times in history, are not exceptions. Some have closed their doors, some declared bankruptcy and hope to keep on operating – perhaps getting some financial support from elsewhere. Some are more fortunate than others, and when this happens, it brings back the sad memory of when the “new” National Airlines based in Las Vegas, NV, was refused any government help after 9/11. It was an ambitious and promising company and I knew its CEO personally.

President Trump is often criticized for starting the counter-offensive against the virus too late. The criticism comes from the Democrats, who look for every little thing he does or doesn’t do for which he could be criticized on the Internet and every Democratic daily. It is easy to be an armchair quarterback after the fact. But in all fairness, no one was right on the ball. Whether it was Governors Cuomo in New York or Newsom in California, all states were way behind the virus incidence. These two are both Democrats and so they do not get the wreath of the media Trump does, but no one should be blamed for the late start in hospitalizing, treating and warning against the virus. China was sitting on the virus news for a long time hoping it might just blow over.

But the travel associated with the Chinese New Year – the travel has the dimensions of Ramadan travels in the Muslim world – guaranteed a spread of the virus like spread of fires in California wilderness. Airlines were hit the first and perhaps the most among all industries.

The first publicized death of an airline employee was in the middle of March, when flight attendant Paul Frishkorn, age 65, from American Airlines passed away from the Covid-19. By April 11, a little more than 600 flight attendants from U.S. airlines tested positive. More were most likely infected, given the scarcity of testing kits everywhere. While it is a relatively low number, considering that U.S. airlines employ about 750,000 people, it began to compete with the infections among New York City police officers. At that time 1,400 were officially diagnosed with the virus.

Fortunately for all of us, the flight attendant unions stepped in this time (Republicans might criticize the unions for “being late,” but just like the politicians, they did not expect the rapid spread, and no one could guess the virility of the virus). Unions were never my favorites because most of the time they did not stand by the employees they represented, but in all objectivity, I applauded them and congratulate them on holding their ground and insisting that airlines provide flight attendants with masks, gloves, and decreasing on-board service to bare necessities to minimize contact with passengers who, in general, have not been properly screened for the virus. Some sick flight attendants used Internet to encourage their colleagues to quit flying, right from their hospital beds, while they were still alive. 

Some critics were quick to point fingers at the construction of planes. But an in depth study of the Center for Disease Control, jointly with Boeing, showed that majority of flight attendant infections were contracted through very close contact with passengers who may have been infected, and through colleagues who were infected by activity outside work. That was a huge step for the airline industry. Now it is clear that distancing on the plane, as well as face covering are the keys to lowering in-flight infections. Having said that, the virus may trigger a new way of filtering aircraft air.

Much more to blame for the virus spread was the influx of Chinese during the Chinese New Year, despite Trumps ban on tourism from China to the U.S. The ban was signed on February 2, but not really properly implemented, which makes a lot of people guilty. Almost 8,000 Chinese entered this country from China during that period, mainly due to an exemption granted to citizens of Hong Kong and Macao, a former Portuguese colony now a part of People’s Republic of China. Travel from mainland China to those 2 territories was not curtailed, and so Chinese from Beijing, let’s say, could easily enter the U.S. via Hong Kong and Macao. However, there is no hard evidence that this “sieve” took place. Aside from this population, there were some 16,000 additional non-Chinese travelers from China admitted to the U.S., many of them passing through Los Angeles International Airport without any meaningful screening.

While the White House attempted to suggest some regulations of the airline industry to limit the spread of the infections, there actually has not been any guideline by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to the airlines as to how to handle passenger flow during an epidemic or a pandemic. Every airline was allowed to make their own rules as no organized, unified attempt to create rules or regulations that would protect both the public and airline employees were instituted. The public eventually made a decision for themselves – stop flying. Many flights of most U.S. airlines carried anywhere between 1-6 passengers per flight, obviously a money-draining proposition for the airlines. 

In a rare bi-partisan decision, both parties agreed to bail out most airlines. The government voted to earmark $50 billion for the airlines – the first $25 billion was as a “forgivable loan” with a condition: the airlines could not involuntarily lay-off any employees till the end of September. The other $25 billion were earmarked for loans, a good number of them related to quasi government “equity” in the airlines that took advantage of it. The airlines could repay the loans in return for the newly acquired government equity. Another package is in the making as it is obvious the virus will not subside to the levels that would encourage people to fly again anytime soon (though in recent months occupancy has gone up on most routes, but not to the level where airlines would at least break even). Some of the airlines that participate in the bail-out are (in alphabetical order) Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, jetBlue Airways, SkyWest, Southwest Airlines and Spirit.

A glimpse at some of those bail-out “packages” is indicative of the rest. 

American Airlines (AA), which burned through up to $70 million/day a month ago, lost $2.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. It got $5.8 billion from the government in the first phase (really, it’s money that our government does not have, and the taxpayers will have to shoulder these bail-outs), with additional $4.75 billion being still available to AA. AA is also trying to reduce its losses on its own: about 100 planes have been grounded, while the remaining planes have occupancy maxing at 39% (still losing millions a day). AA’s revenue for the first quarter of 2020 is about 75% down from the same period last year (from $4 billion down to $1 billion). American was hoping to bring July 2020 occupancy to about 55% full – although the statistics are not out yet, it may have been a very optimistic forecast by AA’s CEO, Doug Parker. So far 39,000 employees took a temporary leave of absence, but in regard to flight attendants, it is almost certain that by the beginning of October anywhere between 7,000 to 8,000 flight attendants and approximately 5,000 management and support personnel will be laid off. The involuntary lay-offs will include $32,000 in a one-time payment (taxable), up to two years of group health insurance and free space available travel. Two bases – St. Louis, Mo. (formerly the main hub for TWA before acquisition by AA) and Raleigh, NC (formerly the biggest base for U.S. Airways before merging with AA) will be shut down. That would have probably happened anyway, even without the virus pandemic.

United Airlines (United/Continental Holdings) is not fairing much better. It lost $1.7 billion in the first quarter of this year as flights occupancy dropped to 10% in May. The airline still burns through $40-45 million every day even in the second quarter, and there is a plan that apart from offering “buyouts with robust benefits” about 36,000 employees may be furloughed at the end of September. There was no breakdown by jobs, but management alone will be cut by 3,400 jobs (about 30% of existing management). Airport employees’, including baggage handlers’ work hours will be cut to 30 hours a week to avoid paying benefits. United got so far a $5 billion loan from the government and may opt for additional $4.5billion.

Delta Air Lines (DL) posted its first quarterly loss in over 5 years last April. It lost $534 million, in comparison with a $730 million profit in the first quarter of last year. It was a shock to the system after ten consecutive annual profits. Delta’s main goal was to drop daily cash burn to $50 million/day by the beginning of July. It burned through $100 million/day in March. Delta received $5.4 billion from the government and is eligible for additional 4.6 billion. It cut expenses by asking employees to take unpaid leave of absence. It was requested by about 35,000 employees. DL was proud to announce that it has had 65,000 passengers/day in June, twice as many as in April. It still operates with heavy losses and renegotiations of terms of Delta’s loans are imperative.

Southwest Airlines (SWA) got $3.2 billion loan so far. All these loans are towards wages of people who have to be retained till October 1. It is not certain if, or how much of additional government bailout might be available, but SWA says it may apply for additional $2.8 billion. SWA has not said how much it burns through in a day. But it disclosed that its flights are only 25-30% full even now, resulting in 80-85% decline in revenue. The first quarter of this year was the first quarter in its existence (after the first quarter when SWA started flying), that the airline lost any money.

Spirit is also relying so far on the government life support and so is jetBlue, which is burning through $10 million/day, after an initial burn of $18 million/day in April. Both the president and CEO agreed to a 50% salary cut. jetBlue also announced, after many squabbles with the City of Long Beach in recent years, that it will take its business to Los Angeles International (mainly because Long Beach City wanted jetBlue to give up unused slots – these and the rest of jetBlue slots will be almost certainly snapped by Southwest and another low-cost airlines). 

U.S. airlines agree that they may not reach even just 50% capacity by Christmas, and although bookings are slowly picking up, they will not be anywhere close to last year’s during the holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas). Foreign airlines are not doing much better. There is limited information available on some of them.


Avianca (Columbia), the second largest airline in Latin America after COPA, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Avianca did not do well already before the corona virus problem and had obtained a $5.3 billion restructuring loan, but can’t afford to make payments now. To protect its assets, bankruptcy was the only way to do it. Avianca’s management is hoping that the airline may return to pre-virus profitability within 12–18 months.

Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong) was in a dire need for a bail out after its occupancy dropped 99% in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the same period last year. The Hong Kong government stepped in with a $5 billion funding package in exchange for some equity on the company. Other investors in Cathay are Swire Pacific Ltd., Air China Ltd., and Qatar Airways Ltd.

Lufthansa (Germany), which had absorbed Swiss Air Lines and Brussels Air (initially organized by former staff from bankrupt Belgium SABENA) was able to make a deal with the German government to get $9.81 billion aid. To get the loan, Lufthansa had to cede 24 take-off and landing slots in Munich and Frankfurt, its two largest bases, to their competitors. Lufthansa also agreed to accept two government people to become board members with limited voting rights (only concerning any possible sale of the airline). The airline aims to shed some 100.000 jobs. These arrangements raised Lufthansa’s stock by 15%.

Air France/KLM (France/the Netherlands) made a similar deal with their respective governments. Airlines in the United Kingdom have also applied for government aid.

Virgin Atlantic, 49% owned by Delta Air Lines, which still is, however, connected to Richard Branson’s empire, has applied for a loan as Delta declined to invest more in the airline, while Virgin Australia declared bankruptcy and Virgin America had become a part of Alaska Airlines several years ago when no investors could be found to salvage it. Other Branson’s ventures are not doing too well, either. Virgin Galactic is years behind with its space tourism flights and Virgin Orbit just had an unsuccessful first satellite launch over the Channel Islands near S. California coast. Other U.K. airlines are also struggling.

Flybe, a low-cost airline which has been losing money already before the virus, has declared bankruptcy. EasyJet stopped flying temporarily and cut its staff by 30%. It resumed flights on June 15 at 30% capacity. Ryan Air has 40% occupancy and projects 60-70% occupancy in September. Collectivelly, British Airways, easyJet and Ryan Air plan to shed thousands of jobs. European bookings were about 80% lower in the second quarter in comparison with the same period last year.

The hassles well-heeled passengers encountered at airports during the corona virus time have led to a cyclic boost in corporate aviation, very much like after 9/11 and SARS. However, this modest jump hardly translated into greater profits, because it still is not like during the hay day of corporate aviation. 

Netjets, owned by Berkshire-Hathaway group headed by financial wizard Warren Buffet cut orders from 60 new jets to 25 and announced it would cut jobs in U.S. and Europe. XO Jets and Sentient also experienced modest increase in the use of their corporate jets.

Middle East has been hit by the corona virus just as badly as the rest of the world. Emirates, based at Dubai, United Arab Emirates, slashed wages by 25-50% and asked employees to take leave of absence without pay. After these steps it expects to recover within 18 months. It might be an optimistic outlook, though the airline offers as of the end of July medical and hospitalization insurance at no cost to their passengers if they get infected on Emirates’ flights. It might just be an advertising gimmick, who knows? Emirates’ losses combined with losses by Etihad, which is based in neighboring Abu Dhabi, have not been announced, but the airlines said their loads have gone down by 23.8 million passengers in the first quarter due to the virus. Fortunately for them, they are supported by oil-rich governments.

In summary, statistics for the second quarter will be even more dismal because the full brunt of the pandemic did not take place till the beginning of March. It is estimated that approximately 32 million jobs related to aviation will be lost globally with airlines losing over $84 billion compared to 2019. Over 14,000 aircraft are mothballed – more than half of the global fleet. Return to pre-virus period is not expected till at least two years from now.

If you are young and have a job at this time, still looking up every time you hear a plane flying by, you may think it is not that bad. But just extrapolating the above numbers in "real people numbers," you will get a different impression. Let me show you what I mean. I mentioned that more than 14,000 planes are parked around the world. That translates into more than 20,000 pilots (globally) will be furloughed. On top of that, more than 100,000 flight attendants will lose their jobs, not counting the airport and maintenance personnel, and clerical staff, which I would not even try to guess.

If things get better in two years, then a lot of airlines will first offer position to former employees that are being furloughed now, at least in the U.S. Unions usually insist on it. Only after that obligation is fulfilled new people will be hired. It may be a long haul.