Mental Health Issues Among Flight Attendants During the Pandemic

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With countries and regions imposing quarantines and travel restrictions, the aviation industry is one of the most affected businesses during the pandemic. During regular times, flight attendants already face a variety of challenges due to the tight work schedules and the unique nature of their jobs. Now that worldwide traveling came to a halt due to Coronavirus, airline crews are facing a new set of challenges, including mental health issues.

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Layoff and working after the pandemic

As of July 2020 alone, Bloomberg reported about 400,000 airline workers have been fired, furloughed, or told they may lose their jobs due to the Coronavirus. There are other 35,000 aviation workers who have been told that their jobs are at risk as well. Bloomberg also counted that in total there are still around 100,000 people who are vulnerable to layoffs due to the pandemic. Even the pilots and cabin crew who manage to keep their jobs are, in general, facing significant salary cuts.

On top of facing the impending massive layoffs that could come just anytime, flight attendants who work during the pandemic also face another big challenge; the rigorous health protocols. As Coronavirus cases are declining and the airline industry slowly resuming operation, some changes must be seen to assure passengers’ health and stop the virus from spreading. These prevention measures mean more workload for flight attendants, one that may require more than what is responsible for. This includes checking passengers’ vaccination status, shifting to hygiene and contactless services, as well as having to adopt a new skill set for dynamic risk assessment.

Flight attendants’ mental health issues triggered by the pandemic

A study done by two German researchers found that in 2020, nearly a quarter (24%) of flight attendants showed clinically relevant stress, 14% showed clinically relevant anxiety, and 23% showed clinically relevant depression symptoms. This is an alarming increase compared to the 2019 data which showed only 8% of the flight attendants showed clinically significant stress, 6% showed clinically significant anxiety, and 8% showed clinically significant depression symptoms. Among many reasons, having been laid off or furloughed is the most cited by flight attendants as the source of their recent stress. Notably, 35% reported that they currently had existential fears while only 3% said they had existential fears before the pandemic.

Anxiety levels among flight attendants have also increased dramatically due to recurrent confrontations with anti-maskers. As stated by NBC, one of the biggest stressors for flight attendants is dealing with passengers who refuse to abide by the mask mandate. A crew member commented, “I try to be relatable. I say it’s not my rule, please just work with me. But if we get to the point where we're not working together, and being rude, it’s a whole different ball game,” she said. Dealing with these circumstances, flight attendants must input uncooperative passengers to the no-fly list to prevent future disturbance. Regardless, the unlucky flight attendants still need to deal with them the first time.

Life after the pandemic might be hard for flight attendants but that does not mean it is impossible. Naturally, any job will have its own challenges and it is better to think of this shift as one too. That said, if you feel like staying with the crew will do you more harm than good, there are always other options. For example, many ex-flight attendants who were laid off during the pandemic changed careers altogether and now are successful entrepreneurs! So, never let a virus stop your dream!

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