The Impact Of The Pandemic From The Eyes Of A United Flight Attendant

The global health crisis is taking its toll on all walks of society. Amid the pandemic, Simple Flying had the opportunity to talk with Rosemary Griggs, a flight attendant that has worked with United Airlines since 1996. She is currently based at San Francisco International Airport and has witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on both a professional and personal level. 

United Airlines Aircraft at Newark Liberty International
Rosemary has been serving Newark from San Francisco over the last month. Photo: Getty Images

Along with adapting to all the changes happening across airline services, Rosemary has been dealing with the death of her father. He was a 10-year cancer survivor before passing away from COVID-19 this year.

Industry changes

Even though Rosemary has been going through such a tough time, she intends to share a positive message during these challenging circumstances. She highlights how people are becoming less self-centered and are focusing on the well-being of others.

Rosemary is qualified in French. So, before the pandemic, she was working routes to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Tahiti’s Faa’a International. However, with the reduced schedule, the cabin crew member is now working on domestic operations to the likes of Newark.

There have been several noticeable changes across services in the last few months. The employees at United get their temperatures checked first thing every day. On the plane, the drinks are served while sealed, and food is packaged in economy class to avoid contamination. Additionally, in first class, inflight meals are given with the foil still over them.

Proactive measures

Rosemary emphasizes that aircraft have never been so clean. Staff members do their regular cleaning and vacuuming. Then they wipe everything down with disinfectant wipes before going over the entire plane again with an electrostatic sprayer. Passengers are also given a disinfectant wipe as they board, and they also all wipe down their area.

United Cleaning
There are several changes in place to help maintain a safe environment. Photo: United Airlines

United flight attendants have had an entirely new section added to their inflight manual regarding COVID-19. In general, the goal is to be mindful of keeping crew and passengers as safe as possible. For instance, for there not to be crowing in the aisle and not to serve with gloves they were worn to pick up things with.

Moreover, crew members are encouraged to wash their hands more than ever. There are other practical changes, such as not refilling a glass that someone was drinking out of.

Traveler habits are also shifting. Rosemary notices that passengers don’t talk to each other or the crew as much as they used to. Ultimately, people pretty much now keep to themselves or the group with which they are traveling.

United Measures
There are new measures across the board. Photo: United Airlines

Nonetheless, Rosemary has been warmed by the fact that everyone working around her has been so supportive of each other. Workers such as the crew, hotel staff, and van drivers have all come together and developed a new camaraderie and concern for each other as essential workers.

Unprecedented impact

Rosemary has appreciated this support following the passing of her father, Roger Griggs. He was drafted into the army and became a member of the elite 82nd Airborne. After earning two master’s degrees, he went on to serve his country as an FBI agent. One of his most famous cases was helping to solve the infamous murder of Dianne Masters on Chicago’s South Side.

When Mr. Griggs was diagnosed with colon cancer, he amended his lifestyle choices to overcome the challenges. By eating healthily, being proactive, and receiving medical treatment, the cancer never returned for over ten years. Sadly, in the first couple of days of March, he was jogging at the gym on the treadmill, and a man got on the bike next to him while coughing uncontrollably. At this point, there were only some confirmed COVID-19 cases in Seattle and New York.

Nonetheless, Mr. Griggs took the pandemic seriously and had already ordered masks. He just didn’t realize the virus was already in the suburbs of Chicago during the first week of March. Otherwise, he would never have risked going to the gym. He developed a cough two days later and was hospitalized in the middle of March. Mr. Griggs then passed away on April 5th.

Rosemary Griggs
Rosemary continues to work on the frontline during these difficult times. Photo: OXIGEN

The key message

The pandemic has undoubtedly shaken rosemary’s life. However, she is determined to focus on being hopeful and working with others to get through it all. Above all, she drives home the message of taking the situation seriously.

“We’re going to get through this eventually, just please take it seriously. It is a very painful way to lose a family member (or members), and people are having years, sometimes decades taken off their lives. Even if you are strong, you may give it to someone who isn’t. But there are even people with no preexisting conditions who die from COVID as well as some children, so you just never know,” Rosemary told Simple Flying.

“One thing that makes it hard is that it toys with you, the person often starts to get better, and then the virus gathers its strength and strikes anew. Just please take my word for it that you don’t want to experience this firsthand, and you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. So, wear a mask in public until we get through this and don’t give employees a hard time about their mask policies. We’re all in this together.”

A helping cause

Rosemary shared her story through OXIGEN Water’s Recover + Rise campaign. This initiative celebrates real frontline workers and shares their unique, powerful stories such as this. In Rosemary’s name, OXIGEN will be donating to the FBI Agents Association, celebrating her father’s life in service with the FBI and his commitment to education.

Altogether, it is such a difficult time for many across the globe. Most people have had their lives been impacted in one way or the other. However, it is hopeful to hear that Rosemary continues to fulfill her duties while trying to inspire others during these challenging moments.

What are your thoughts about the impact the pandemic is having on society across the globe? How do you feel about Rosemary’s story? Let us know what you think in the comment section.