What It’s Like to Be a Flight Attendant During Covid-19
In our Day in the Quarantine Life series, we’re chatting with Canadians about their new normal, exploring how they organize their days and balance their home lives with work obligations. Here, Iris Acuna, a flight attendant for Swoop Airline, shares how she gets through a day of quarantine while living at home with her parents.
I like to wake up, shower, and take some me-time to properly hydrate my skin. I’m a flight attendant for Swoop Airline, and the downfall with flying so often is that my skin gets really dry.
After my shower, I’ll put on a Dr. Jart+ face mask and wait 15 minutes before applying my face oil and moisturizer. For my makeup, I keep it simple but also very professional. It really depends on my mood, though. There are days when I like to wear red lipstick, and then there are days where a natural-coloured lip is fine. Today’s a natural lip kind of day.
There’s a guideline for how I style my hair: up in a bun or a nice ponytail. Since my ponytail would go past my shoulder blades, I put it up in a bun and use a lot of hairspray to tack down any flyaways—I don’t want my hair to get caught somewhere in the aircraft.
After I’ve put on my uniform, I go downstairs and make a quick oatmeal for breakfast and pack up what I need for the flight.
I live with my parents, and I avoid contact with them to be safe. Since the aircraft is basically a confined tube, there’s obviously a huge risk that I could catch the virus. When I need to go downstairs, I tell my mom and dad, and they will go to their room and isolate themselves from me. Anything I touch in the house I make sure to disinfect. My parents have been so helpful and supportive during this time, and I’m so grateful. They’ve been praying for me. Obviously they’re worried, but they’re at peace.
I grab the dinner I pre-made the night before: chicken breast, string beans and brown rice, along with a few Nutri-Grain granola bars. I live those things! They’re such an easy snack to tide me over while working.
Before I step out the door, I double-check my uniform, my bag, and make sure my documents—passport, company and airport ID—are up-to-date. I live in Scarborough—it’s about a hour-long drive to my airport base in Hamilton, so I don’t want to forget anything.
I don’t start my car until I’ve prayed. I’m Christian, so I like to listen to a Christian music—Hillsong, Planetshakers, Chris Tomlin—during my drive to work. It mentally and spiritually helps me.
A lot of airlines have reduced their payouts, which means they’ve had to cut half of their employees. Basically, you either get laid off or you’re asked to be on a voluntary leave of absence that’s unpaid. A lot of my colleagues are already laid off, while some took the leave of absence and applied for employment insurance. I’m lucky I’m still able to do my job. I’m doing it to the best of my ability, and I think I’m handing it the way I should be. I’m just taking it all day by day.
Once I get to the airport, I park at staff parking. I’m supposed to be at the gate lounge an hour before the flight, but I get there an hour and a half early to get settled. I don’t like rushing. It mentally stresses me out, and I don’t want to start my shift in that kind of state.
I sign in with my airport ID, sit down and take in the silence. Most of the crew members haven’t arrived yet so it’s actually quite peaceful. I take this time to mentally prepare for the flight ahead and say another prayer. I believe my prayers have really helped me throughout the quarantine.
My duty flight starts at 5 p.m., flying from Hamilton to Halifax and back to Hamilton. Before the flight, we do a mandatory briefing. We go over the flight details, the weather, if we’re going to anticipate any turbulence along the way, as well as any potential safety emergencies in and outside the cabin.
We’ve now added a Covid procedure, which consumes a large chunk of our briefing. If a passenger shows any symptoms of Covid during a flight while we’re in the air, we have to tell the pilots and they would then inform ATC (air traffic control). After relocating the passenger to another seat in an empty row, the flight will continue to proceed as normal. But, if we’re on the ground and a passenger shows any signs of Covid symptoms, we have to deplane them as well as the rest of the passengers so the plane can be disinfected. I haven’t had an incident happen to me yet, but I did witness one a couple of weeks ago before boarding my aircraft. The passengers seemed very understanding and cooperative.
When I board the aircraft, it’s already been disinfected by airport staff. But due to the pandemic, the three other flight attendants and I have to go an extra mile and disinfect any high-touch surfaces. I put on my gloves, grab some Clorox wipes and wipe down my flight attendant area: galley, safety station equipment, and intercom.
Once we’ve disinfected and finished our pre-flight checks, we commence boarding. I put on a new set of gloves and a face mask to protect myself before checking any boarding passes from passengers. Before quarantine, a flight would normally have around 160 to 189 passengers, but now the average is 15 to 35. After everyone is boarded, I do the safety demo, and my colleagues make sure everyone in the cabin is secure for takeoff.
Even though my interaction with passengers is limited on the flight now that we’ve discontinued all meal and beverage services, I still have to be mindful and use my best judgement when someone does need my assistance. As of right now, I’m told to wear a face mask and gloves when boarding and deplaning passengers, during my safety demo, and any time I interact with a passenger—but that’s it. I don’t even wear a mask when interacting with the other flight attendants.
When it’s convenient, I’ll eat the dinner I packed. I tend to save my granola bars for when I need a little energy boost.
My drive home from work always feels long, so I turn on some Planetshakers to keep me awake and on high alert. When I get home, I quarantine myself in my room.
I’m supposed to get married on July 18. We’re still proceeding with the plan, but at the same time we’re making sure we have a backup plan. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we may not have the wedding we originally pictured, but I’m choosing to stay positive and optimistic.
I believe whatever the Lord’s plan is for us, it will prevail, and we will still get married. That’s all that really matters in the end.
As told to Alyssa Ball.