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World News

April 28, 2009

Flight attendants union wants flu safeguards

ATLANTA (AP) — A national flight attendants union wants the Federal Aviation Administration to require U.S. airlines to develop and implement passenger-screening standards because of the swine flue scare.

The request, if granted, could be costly to an industry already reeling from a drop-off in demand due to the weak economy.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA also asked the FAA in a letter Monday to order airlines to provide flight attendants with non-latex gloves and masks and to allow flight attendants with flu-like symptoms to call in sick but not have the absence counted against their allotted sick leave.

"We believe that the FAA administrator has the authority to issue such an order ... in light of the serious threat that this outbreak poses to flight attendants and passengers on flights into and out of affected areas," an AFA-CWA official said in the letter.

The letter added that protecting flight attendants "will reduce the risk of disease transmission for all aircraft occupants."

The AFA represents flight attendants at several airlines that offer flights to Mexico, including US Airways and United Airlines. A spokeswoman for the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots at several major U.S. carriers, did not return a call to the group's Washington offices Tuesday seeking comment.

So far, major airlines haven't publicly reported any illness among crew members due to the swine flu, and there have not been large numbers of absences due to staffers who don't want to fly to Mexico. While some passengers are changing or canceling their travel plans, flight operations among U.S. carriers remain on schedule.

Asked Tuesday about the AFA-CWA's requests, David Castelveter of the Air Transport Association, which represents U.S. airlines, said carriers are taking measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the health of employees and passengers.

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