Flight attendants will carry thermometers to fight hot cabins
in fight against high cabin temperatures
In June 2017, a 4month-old baby was rushed to the hospital suffering from heat-related symptoms after more than two hours aboard an increasingly hot United Airlines plane on the tarmac at Denver International Airport.
The child recovered, but the incident showed how sometimes extreme temperatures that can overtake an aircraft on a hot summer day, creating a cabin environment that can run from uncomfortable to potentially unsafe.
“Today there are no (federal) temperature standards that exist. Oftentimes, in a list of safety requirements, this becomes the last priority,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents about 50,000 flight attendants working for 20 different airlines. “Even when airlines have their own internal policies about heating and cooling aircraft … there’s not going to be a full solution here until there’s a standard that everyone will have to meet.”
Starting this month, thousands of flight attendants at airlines around the country will carry thermometers to document extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, encountered during their shifts.
The data collected will be used to further bolster the push by two of the industry’s largest flight attendant unions to get the federal government to establish standards in place cabin temperatures, with a recommended range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Such rules could make temperature checks part of the standard preflight checklist, with passengers prevented from boarding planes unless the proper conditions are met.
Last week, the AFA and Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents Southwest flight attendants, announced a smartphone app that flight crews and passengers can use to document extreme temperatures.
Airlines have a number of tools to keep aircraft cool while on the ground, including auxiliary power units that drive the plane’s air conditioning systems and the use of preconditioned air pumped onto the plane.
American Airlines said it won’t board an aircraft if the cabin temperature is above 90 degrees, and while Southwest doesn’t have a set limit, a spokesman said employees are empowered to decide whether the temperature is acceptable for boarding.