Business

Air Canada to provide protective gowns, eyewear to flight crew amid COVID-19 pandemic

The company said in a memo sent to staff and seen by CBC News that it secured a supply of plastic safety eyeglasses on Friday, and will provide workers with protective gowns to wear over their uniforms starting Sunday.

Dozens of flight attendants have become sick with coronavirus, CBC News probe finds

Flight attendants wearing protective equipment serve snacks to Canadians repatriated from China and en route to CFB Trenton for quarantine on Feb. 7. Air Canada said Friday it would provide gowns and eyewear to flight crews to protect them from coronavirus. (Edward Wang via Reuters)

Air Canada said Friday it would provide gowns and eyewear to flight crews to protect them from coronavirus.

The company said in a memo sent to staff and seen by CBC News that it secured a supply of plastic safety eyeglasses on Friday, and will provide workers with protective gowns to wear over their uniforms starting Sunday.

"We're also sourcing a protective item that can be worn over top of prescription eyewear and will report back soon," the memo read.

The announcement came days after an investigation by CBC News found Canadian airline workers and their unions have complained about lack of protective equipment — such as protective suits or gowns, and mandatory testing — and several flight attendants became sick with COVID-19.

"I've asked several times, 'Why are we not wearing hazmat suits?' Other airlines are wearing hazmat suits," a flight attendant who works for a major Canadian airline told CBC News.

"We are on the front line and we are exposed to people from all around the world. We have connections from all over the world."

WATCH | Flight attendants speak out after contracting COVID-19:

Airline crews tell CBC they didn’t feel adequately protected from COVID-19 after several employees test positive for the illness. 2:01

CBC News agreed not to publish their name or that of their employer, as they are not authorized to speak publicly.

In the memo, Air Canada said it chose gowns over hazmat suits "mainly because [they] can be removed quickly in the event of an emergency."

Canada's airlines are required to provide gloves, masks, wipes and sanitizer to employees. Wearing the gear is optional, except when handling food. 

Air Canada said both gowns and eyewear are optional. It advises that gowns be disposed after each flight, and that eyewear, which is re-usable, should be cleaned with soap and water, sanitizer or antiseptic wipes.

Reacting to Friday's announcement, the flight attendant who previously spoke to CBC News said they were "elated."

"It changes my level of confidence in the protection of my own health and that of those around me," they said.

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