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In the Face of Fear: Flight Crews Take on COVID-19

March 20, 2020

While the world is in quarantine, some industry employees are still hard at work to deliver necessary services… Business aviation is no exception. Planet 9 Cabin Service Representative, Virginia Hankins, shares what life looks like as a crew member operating during a global pandemic.


Going into my rotation amidst the official ruling of the COVID19 Pandemic, I wasn’t sure what awaited me on the other side of my apartment door.

I knew by following the news that schools were closing, events were cancelling, new cases of the virus were developing in new cities, and possibly the most newsworthy report—a huge shortage of toilet paper traumatizing citizens everywhere. However, sitting safely in my apartment I truly wasn’t sure what to expect in my next two weeks as a flight attendant.

“…We are going to make it through this trying and uncertain time.”

Surely enough, six days into my rotation I find myself typing away to hopefully shed light on the world that is happening outside of quarantine, while I sit on a Falcon 7X traveling country to country to help families reach their loved ones. In doing so, I hope to provide a sense of comfort and reassurance to us all – those in aviation, first responders, people who are sick or have loved ones facing the virus head on, and those in quarantine – that we are going to make it through this trying and uncertain time.

In today’s climate, crew members are being characterized as one of the many “first responders” of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with doctors, nurses, police, and so many others. We are being called to continue our daily routines of flying in and out of cities and airports that all have people that could or could not be carriers of a virus we are fighting among the nations. In private aviation, our job is moving steadfast towards new horizons and different time zones, into late night red eyes, and hotels on the brink of lock downs.

As a crew member of a charter operator that is working during the COVID-19 outbreak, I do have some peace of mind. The Planet 9 operations team has been working tirelessly to ensure the safest environment for our passengers and crews while adhering to guidelines from our world governments. While our operation continues, all of our teams remain in close communication throughout the day to ensure safe operations while remaining in compliance of the evolving CDC, WHO, DHS/TSA, and FAA guidance.

Beyond the constant communication of our teams, we are implementing additional cleaning and disinfecting procedures every day. Onboard, we are wearing gloves 24/7 during flights to protect ourselves and our passengers from germs, but also to help provide peace of mind to our passengers in knowing that we take their health and safety seriously. Today alone, I have washed my hands an estimated forty to fifty times (you may think this is an exaggeration but my skin is so dry you would think I’d been in the dessert for a week with no water). When greeting passengers, we are asking the necessary screening questions to protect them and ourselves from any exposure – a tertiary risk mitigation in addition to sales and pilot screening protocols.

“It’s just like the aviation saying—’you must put on your own oxygen mask first if you have any hope of helping anyone else’…in today’s worlds case, we swap the oxygen mask for gloves.”

To ensure our crew are healthy and rested, our leadership teams are facilitating twice daily check-ins to see how we are feeling on the road — which, as many crew members know, is very important as you can go from feeling great to sour in a moments notice when you’re traveling and traversing time zones. These checks continue when we’re back home to ensure we’re healthy and ready to come back on duty.

As a member of the Planet 9 team, and as a corporate flight attendant, I am proud to be taking such extreme measures to keep people safe. What is important to remember, and for other people to note, is that our crews and staff are taking these precautions not because we’re scared of contracting the virus, but because it is our ethical and professional duty to protect the safety of others. We do not want to be the crew member, the person, who passes on a virus to an elderly passenger, to the newborn baby and his mom trying to get home to family, or to the woman who has an oxygen tank with her on her way to treatment. We take these precautions seriously because we care about the people we come in contact with every single day. By being out on the road, we are committing to protecting our passengers and our fellow crew members, and that starts with protecting ourselves. It’s just like the aviation saying—”you must put on your own oxygen mask first if you have any hope of helping anyone else”…in today’s worlds case, we swap the oxygen mask for gloves.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asked by many if I’m nervous being on the road during this time, especially traveling to different countries. In full transparency…I would be lying if I said my answer was 100% yes. It is unsettling to be the only 3 people staying in a Marriott in London, and eerie to witness Main Street in Nice, France with not a soul in sight, fearful of getting a ticket for going outside to find an open restaurant—because you have no food in your hotel, unnerving to have your nose swabbed in Abu Dhabi before entering their country. But the most nerve-racking part of it all, is just the simple fact of being extremely vulnerable to a virus that we don’t know much about.

“Our jobs, and the safety measures we are taking, are important.”

Fear aside, I know that the missions we are doing are crucial and important. Every day that Planet 9 continues to operate, we are helping people return home and reuniting families. I find comfort and peace knowing that we are providing a safe and helpful service in reuniting loved ones in such a vulnerable and scary time. Our jobs, and the safety measures we are taking, are important.

Finally, to those of you asking why we would jeopardize our health at such a crucial time to be safe…to you, I say, that there will always be people, who think we shouldn’t be doing something because of the risks involved, but it’s a personal decision if we decide to face them or not. For me, it wasn’t even a question. I knew that, despite the fears, I belonged with my crew, figuring out which airports are cancelled, changing routes at the last minute, disinfecting every inch of the aircraft after a twelve hour flight, and taking this challenging on together, one day at a time.

At Planet 9 we embrace the chance to be at the forefront, to serve our clients during uncertain times, and because of this promise, we will be here as long as we can. We will weather this storm, together as a team, and once the clouds clear, we will emerge stronger than before


*Disclaimer*
Planet 9 has implemented several risk management strategies beyond those shared in the stories or expressions above. Please contact us to learn more about how we’re fighting COVID-19.

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