As Coronavirus Spreads, JFK Experience Cut Hours, Leave of Absences and Health Risks
By: S. Lezama
As the novel coronavirus sweeps its way across the global with more than 89,000 cases identified worldwide in 60 countries, President Trump has imposed and expanded travel restrictions to multiple countries including, South Korea, Iran, and Italy who are at the highest level for travel restrictions meaning, to avoid all non-essential traveling.
With travel bans being imposed on numerous countries, airlines such as United, American, and Delta have suspended all flights to and from mainland China where the virus originally began.
Now, the airline industry is facing a major threat as the corona virus attacks its multibillion dollar revenues. According to the International Air Transport Association, the industry is expected to lose about 30 billion dollars in revenue as airlines begin to cut routes, freeze pay, and advise their employees to take a leave of absence.
Amongst those suggested to take a leave of absence is CSI student Micky, an English major who works at JFK international airport as a check in agent for flight control. “There are less shifts,” said Micky. “People are advised to take a leave of absence.”
According to Micky, not only have employees been advised to take a leave of absence but employees have also quit for personal reasons following the announcement of the novel virus.
Along with the advised leave of absence, there has been a drastic cut of routes causing a shortage of hours among airline employees. Airlines affected by the ban, such as Micky’s, face a cut in hours if they do not take the advised leave. “They are trying to accommodate everyone,” said Micky.
Not only have airlines suggested a leave of absence to its employees for safety precautions, they have established safety measures as well. “We have canceled all flights to infected areas,” said Micky. According to Micky, hand sanitizer and face masks have been handed out to all employees–but only to an extent.
As a precaution, Micky has taken her own steps in securing her health from the coronavirus. “I am currently wearing a face mask at work, constantly washing my hands, and taking my vitamins,” said Micky. “And getting proper sleep.”
Although airlines are providing its employees with hand sanitizer and facemasks, airlines are not providing them for their passengers. “The airline is not responsible for the passengers’ health,” said Micky. “If you are choosing to travel it is at your own risk.”
With the spread of fear regarding the coronavirus lingering in the air, Micky says she feels relatively safe in her work environment. “I feel like I’m pretty safe,” said Micky. “In JFK we do have the CDC constantly screening passengers who are high risk and following protocol.”
Along with trying to protect her health from the coronavirus, Micky is trying to protect her identity as well steering clear from passengers with never ending questions regarding the virus and travel. “I usually change after my work shift,” said Micky. “So I don’t get bothered on the train or busses.”
Micky has shared that many travelers bombard her with questions daily. “Everyday they ask questions if they can still travel to their final destination,” said Micky. “Some governments in other countries are limiting who can enter and exit the country. They just want to make sure they can get to and from their destination.”
Micky has made it very clear, all travelers choosing to fly with JFK international airport are traveling at their own risk and all airlines are not responsible for the health of their passengers. “This is not the airline’s responsibility. They have zero control over this virus,” said Micky. “They have zero control over where it spreads.”