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The Coronavirus Economy
03:01 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

A major US flight attendants union is calling for an exception for airlines to be able to mount full-size hand sanitizer in the galley area and near lavatories of airplanes.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, told CNN this is at the “top of the list” of recommendations the union has made to address the coronavirus crisis for the industry.

“You keep hearing from the health professionals, the most important way to mitigate the spread of disease is frequent hand washing, and when that’s not possible, the use of hand sanitizer, 60% alcohol or greater,” Nelson said.

That comes with “certain complications” on airplanes because the Department of Transportation must approve large quantities of liquids and gels on planes, she said.

“The airlines are actually working with us and working in a really expedited manner to get those exemptions from the government,” said Nelson.

In the meantime, Nelson said airlines have been providing extra hand sanitizer for flight attendants when they start their trips, which can be used to refill smaller bottles.

The union has also called for the installation of “hand sanitizer stations in airports and on planes,” as well as the distribution of so-called universal precaution kits on each flight. Those kits include items recommended by International Civil Aviation Organization, including germicidal disinfectant, masks covering the face and eyes, and a protective apron.

It has also called on the airlines to cover “all medical costs and lost wages for aviation workers who are exposed in the course of work,” suspend cancellation or flight change fees for passengers, and to institute more advanced aircraft cleaning standards.

CNN has reached out to the Department of Transportation for comment.

CNN’s Greg Wallace contributed to this report.