Cargo Pilots Are Getting Sick With COVID-19 And Unions Say UPS Isn’t Doing Enough To Protect Them

The cargo pilots who are getting ready to possibly deliver millions of vaccines are themselves falling sick to COVID-19. And unions want carriers like UPS to do more to protect them.

The Washington Post reports:

“Cargo pilots worn down by months of flying during the coronavirus pandemic are getting ready to take on the job of helping to distribute a vaccine, but their union leaders say they are increasingly falling ill with the virus themselves.

The union representing about 3,000 pilots at UPS says its members logged their first 100 cases between March 25 and Oct. 27. Since then, they have seen another 66 cases. Robert Travis, president of the Independent Pilots Association, urged the company do more to protect employees.

‘We’re continuing to call on UPS to do what it takes to get enough testing devices to be able to test all of our pilots, domestic and international, before they leave on a trip and also when they return,’ Travis said.

The pandemic has been a bonanza for cargo airlines as passenger carriers have cut schedules, grounding planes that normally carry about half county’s airfreight. While passenger airlines have laid off flight attendants and cut work hours for pilots, cargo companies have boosted their bottom lines and increased wages in some cases.

But strains on the international aviation system threaten to complicate vaccine distribution, according to the International Air Transport Association. The group, which represents major airlines, recently released recommendations on how the industry and governments should prepare.

‘The global route network has been reduced dramatically from the pre-COVID 22,000 city pairs,’ the organization said in a statement. ‘Governments need to reestablish air connectivity to ensure adequate capacity is available for vaccine distribution.’

The pandemic has brought new stresses, as pilots face suspicion from foreign governments that have imposed strict rules on visiting crews, leery of getting an infusion of the virus from the United States. That means solitary stays locked in hotel rooms overseas after long shifts on the flight deck, and occasionally lengthy enforced quarantines. The union said one UPS pilot was ordered to stay in a Hong Kong quarantine facility for 30 days.”

For the rest of the story, visit The Washington Post here.

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