Paul Frishkorn, a Philadelphia-based flight attendant and union representative died this week, CNN reports. While the cause of death hasn’t yet been revealed, according to the outlet, his voicemail greeting said that he was “very ill” and waiting to hear if he had COVID-19.
“He was amazing, and totally selfless, and just a ... good soldier who never asked for any recognition, other than to make sure people were taken care of,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said to CNN.
In his 60s, Frishkorn was in a higher risk group to contract the virus. Twice during his career, he had been named one of American's Flight Service Champions for excellent customer service. “Our hearts go out to Paul's family and friends, many of whom work for American,” the airline said. “We are working directly with Paul's family to ensure they are cared for during this extraordinarily difficult time.”
Like many, flight attendants have had to either choose to continue working and further expose themselves to the virus. “They're right there exposed on the front lines,” Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told CNN. The union represents about 27,000 flight attendants at American Airlines. “They're scared of getting sick and carrying the virus to their families.”
It’s particularly difficult to follow social distancing guidelines when you’re confined to an airplane cabin. Flight attendants have to share bathrooms with passengers and sit next to each other in jump seats, where their shoulders touch.
"Flight attendants are very much on edge right now," American Airlines flight attendant Tracy Sear said.
American Airlines released a statement to CNN in regards to work safety. “We've taken enhanced steps to provide our team members with a safe, healthy and clean working environment," the company said.
The press release also noted that employees have been instructed to stay at home if they exhibit any symptoms. American allows for up to two weeks of additional paid sick leave if an employee catches the virus or has to quarantine. “If a team member doesn't feel comfortable coming to work, we are encouraging them to take vacation, sick time or leave.”
While a lot of flights have been empty, some people are purchasing cheap airfare for vacations to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Grand Cayman, and the Bahamas, flight attendant James Rhoades told the publication.