American Airlines flight attendant dies due to coronavirus, officials say

American Airlines flight attendant dies due to coronavirus, officials say
FILE PHOTO: American Airlines flight attendants are sharing their concerns after one of their co-workers tested positive for the coronavirus and then died. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — American Airlines flight attendants are sharing their concerns after one of their co-workers tested positive for the coronavirus and then died.

Paul Frishkorn, 65, was a Philadelphia-based flight attendant for American Airlines.

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Officials said he had other health issues that made him a higher-risk patient.

On Friday, two separate American Airlines flight attendants told Channel 9 they have major concerns about the safety of employees and customers. They believe the airline should suspend flights for a few weeks to help the nation fight the virus.

“They’re completely out of the hand sanitizing wipes, the Clorox wipes that we get on board,” said one American Airlines flight attendant, who asked to remain anonymous. “So, we have nothing to clean surfaces."

Both flight attendants said it wasn’t until this week that the airline limited food and drink service to passengers and allowed them to wear gloves and face masks. They said the changes come too late.

In a written statement, one flight attendant said, “I’m scared to bring something home to my family."

American announced a decision Friday to reduce its schedule due to reduced customer demand.

A spokesperson said wearing face masks and gloves isn’t recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the airline relaxed the rules to help flight attendants. It also took several steps to reduce flight attendant interaction with customers:

Regarding cleaning supplies, a spokesperson said, "Though these items are in high demand, we are currently provisioning these necessary products to our flight attendants for use while flying."

However, workers said halting service for a few weeks is the only option to keep employees and the public safe.

“They need to shut down because we’re carriers. We are carriers," said a flight attendant.

American Airlines officials said their hearts go out to Frishkorn’s family. They also said employees with health issues and most mainline team members can consider a voluntary leave during this time or a voluntary early-out option.

Frishkorn joined American Airlines in 1997 and was honored as a Flight Service Champion twice during his career.

Statement from American Airlines:

"Earlier this week, we lost a respected, longtime member of the American Airlines family, who tested positive for COVID-19. Paul Frishkorn joined us as a flight attendant in 1997 and was based in Philadelphia.

"Over the years he built a reputation as a consummate professional who was honored as one of American’s Flight Service Champions twice for his excellent service to our customers.

"He was also a knowledgeable benefits consultant and servant leader for his colleagues through his work with the Association of Flight Attendants while at US Airways and later, with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

“Our hearts go out to Paul’s loved ones, many of whom work for American. We are working directly with them to ensure they are cared for during this extraordinarily difficult time. He will be missed by the customers he cared for and everyone at American who worked with him.”