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Flight attendant encourages those in flight industry to stay hopeful despite impact of COVID-19

Flight companies have downsized due to few people flying

North Carolina – A regional airline flight attendant is encouraging others in the airlines industry to stay hopeful after the coronavirus pandemic has caused many companies, including her own, to downsize.

Sierra Dixon has been a flight attendant for nearly two years.

“Right now, I am based in New York City,” Dixon said. “I have touched every state except for Hawaii, which is definitely on my bucket list. I really love my job. I don’t think anything has fulfilled me so much more than being a flight attendant.”

She said she is proud of the training she and her fellow flight attendants have done to keep people protected in the air.

“First and foremost, we are about safety,” Dixon said. “That could literally mean helping people who are having seizures, dealing with fires on the plane, learning how to deplane in 90 seconds, down to delivering a baby in the air. Secondly, we are about service.”

In the beginning, Dixon said she and her co-workers were not worried about COVID-19.

“It was weird at first because I remember when it first started, there were talks about it just being in Asian countries,” Dixon said. “I remember speaking with one of my friends who is a flight attendant from Honk Kong. She just got back from there and was saying how it wasn’t that bad at the time, but it was kind of getting worse because of the spread. A lot of Asian countries are overpopulated, so it was spreading like wildfire.”

Dixon said they still continued to stay calm.

“Our company had already prepped us for this,” Dixon said. “They told us, ‘Hey guys. Your job is to travel. This is what is going on in the world. We will keep you updated as much as possible. Just stay safe, wash your hands and do what you need to do to stay out of harm’s way.”

She said the emails began to intensify.

“They were so efficient with keeping us in the know,” Dixon said. “They started sending out emails saying what to do if you are traveling to this country or that. We were always being updated. We pretty much advise not to travel to any Asian countries, and after that, we would do something different. But then, we were just getting email after email saying, ‘This country has it. This country is not safe.’”

She said their worry was low because of the daily germs they deal with on a normal basis.

“It is crazy because, what a lot of people don’t understand is flight attendants are already susceptible to so many different germs. You are in a metal tube for hours at a time sometimes with people coughing and sneezing, and it is just circulating," Dixon said. We are already constantly washing and sanitizing things down. When I get home, I take all of my clothes off before I get into the door and wash them immediately.”

She said the emails mirrored what usually they get during flu season.

“They tell us to wash our hands, use sanitizer, don’t touch your face and other stuff like that," she said.

Dixon said things began to get real very fast.

“I think once the government came out and was, like, this is a serious thing and they were talking about shutting down this and possible spreading of this. You think ‘Oh, wow, this isn’t just the flu.’ That is when we were not just washing things but scrubbing. This is the most serious I have ever seen in this situation.”

Unfortunately, due to the lack of people flying, Dixon’s company had to downsize, which meant her being put on voluntary leave without pay for three months.

“My country has officially shut down two of our bases,” Dixon said. “The one in New York, which is mine, and the Atlanta base. Fortunately, we have up to 20 bases to choose from, but of course, you want to be closer to home, and I live in North Carolina.”

She said her company have cut down flying significantly.

“Our partners have cut down by 60-70%,” Dixon said. “Fortunately, I am with a company that doesn’t have to furlough employees.”

Dixon said her company offered them an option for people to be placed on voluntary leave because they do not want to furlough people.

“My boyfriend was, like, ‘New York is increasing more and more in the numbers of deaths due to the virus,’” Dixon said. “He told me he would much rather me stay home and take care of my 4-year-old, Roman, than to keep flying. So I put in my request and got approved.”

She said people were given the option of taking one to three months of unpaid leave.

“A lot of people are on voluntary leave, but that does not secure us from being furloughed,” Dixon said. “If he government says, ‘Hey, we need to stop flying for 30 days,’ then that is a big potential for furloughing. Right now, a lot of states and cities are on lockdown, which means a lot of people are not flying, which means next week, it could cut down from 70% to 85%.”

Dixon’s significant other has their family financially stable, but some of her friends are not.

“They are trying to get unemployment. Some are bartenders on the side, but that got shut down because no restaurants are open. Some have had to drop their apartments to live with their parents," Dixon said. "It is hard because people who cant afford to be on leave are still flying, basically risking their lives everyday because they depend on that income.”

Dixon is now encouraging everyone in the flight industry to stay strong and stay safe.

“I went from being able to spin a globe and say that is where I want to go to now I am confined to my apartment. But at the end of the day, safety is essential. Being safe, not just for me and my family, but to everyone around us is essential," she said. “I want everyone to just keep going. This is not over. If you are still breathing in this world right now, that means whatever is meant for you will happen. So everyone just stay safe and keep going.”

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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