Airline staff share experience amid COVID-19 pandemic


Posted at May 12 2020 04:15 PM

MANILA -- Aside from medical workers, delivery riders, and grocery workers, airline staff can also be considered frontliners against the novel coronavirus as they face the risk of infection while on duty.

These include not only the pilot and flight attendants, but also the ground personnel like cargo, passenger, and ramp agents. 

Among them are Cebu Pacific's airport performance manager Charmaine Joy Prieto, and cabin crew members Christine Joy Madamba and Katrina Valencia. 

They were part of the group that helped the Department of Tourism in flying stranded tourists and locals, and take part in cargo operations to ensure the continuous transport of essential goods.

In a statement released by Cebu Pacific, Madamba recalled joining two repatriation flights from Puerto Princesa to Manila last March 26. 

She said it was her first time to experience such flights, and that she considers it one of the most memorable moments of her career.

Madamba with fellow cabin crew members (right, seated) Nadine, (from left, standing) Bertier, and FJ lead the sweeper flights 5J 646 and 5J 690 to bring stranded tourists to Manila. Handout

"When our first passenger for 5J 646 boarded, I clearly remembered her saying she couldn't believe that they were going back to Manila. Her words struck me and I felt the weight of what we were doing for them. For many, it was an answered prayer," she said. 

Madamba went on to recall the time when all passengers were clapping as they boarded the flight: "It was a sight to behold. They were cheering for each other and seemed very grateful to be given a chance to go back home. Hearing them say the words, 'Thank you for rescuing us,' and 'Thank you for coming to get us' made it all worthwhile." 

Valencia, on the other hand, said she opted to stay in Manila despite being allowed by her employer to go back to her family in the province during the quarantine. 

Unlike Madamba who joined a sweeper flight, Valencia manned an all-cargo plane, securing boxes of goods and medical supplies. 

The A320 all-cargo flight manned by Valencia and other crew members. Handout

"Volunteering to fly during difficult times is not new to me," said Valencia, who is a long-time cabin crew member. "I feel a certain sense of responsibility -- a lot of people are counting on me to bring our guests home safely." 

"The call of duty is stronger despite the risk of COVID-19," she added. "We are doing our part by bringing cargo, including the PPEs needed by frontliners in the hospitals. I believe that by doing our jobs, we are helping each other combat this pandemic." 

Meanwhile, Prieto was in charge of on-ground activities at the Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro, handling 150 foreign guests who were on their way to Manila.

Cebu Pacific's Cagayan de Oro managed by Prieto. Handout

"Knowing that there were limited transportation available and a lot of checkpoints to go through, I am proud of my team for being able to be at the airport on time. I witnessed their commitment to perform their jobs and provide continuous service to the guests," she said. 

Citing its dedicated team, Cebu Pacific expressed optimism that more people will get to fly again soon once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.