Boston-based JetBlue flight attendant dies from COVID-19

BOSTON — Ray Pabon, who worked for JetBlue as a flight attendant, has died from the coronavirus, his cousin told Boston 25 News on Monday.

“He had this personality that he was the life of the party,” said his cousin, Wanda Aviles, a Florida resident.

At 51, Pabon was an only child who was living the dream. He loved his job where he was flying around the world.

“I miss him, he made a difference in many people’s lives. A lot of people loved him,” said Aviles.

His cousin said that Pabon was a diabetic. He started feeling ill in March, and was admitted to the hospital. A few weeks later, his condition started deteriorating.

“They had sedated him, because he wasn’t doing very well. On Friday, they took him off the sedation, and he never came back,” said Aviles.

Aviles fondly remembers their childhood memories, and how artsy he was.

“He worked in the fashion industry, in NYC for Oscar de la Renta. He would design bridal dresses, gowns,” said Aviles.

A JetBlue flight attendant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “As I’m watching my co-workers around me die, I’m scared to death to go to work now. But I don’t have a choice, because I have to pay my bills."

Across the world, flights aren’t packed, but many are still flying, and not heeding the warning about this deadly virus.

“The people that are flying now, they shouldn’t be flying. We are flying first-time people around the country who are cashing in on a $17 flight that should be $370. They don’t understand that they are putting everyone at risk,” said the flight attendant.

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Aviles says, her family feels incomplete. Her cousin was always there for everyone, and he died alone. Pabon was an only child. He leaves behind his parents who are in Georgia.

“Everybody misses him. It’s not something everybody was looking forward to. Everybody misses him dearly,” said Aviles.

JetBlue has confirmed that to date, the company has lost two in-flight crewmembers and one former in-flight crewmember to COVID-19. They said Pabon was not on a recent flight.

Please read JetBlue’s full statement below:

"The safety of our crewmembers and customers is our first priority at JetBlue. In this unprecedented time, our team has put in place a number of added measures to protect crewmembers and customers, keeping in mind supplies of certain items have become challenging to procure during this pandemic:

  • Increasing the rigor of cleaning and sanitizing procedures on our aircraft.
  • Increasing sanitization frequency during longer aircraft turns.
  • Providing hand sanitizer and more frequently sanitizing common surfaces inside our airport terminals.
  • Promoting handwashing and healthy hygiene practices among our crewmembers.
  • Providing medical grade gloves for inflight crewmember use during all phases of flight.
  • Allowing optional mask usage for crewmembers.

As an extra precaution and in adherence with current health guidelines, we have made adjustments to our service that will minimize the physical transactions and touchpoints between our customers and crewmembers. Specifically we have made the following adjustments to our inflight food and beverage service:

  • Blocking the 2 rows surrounding inflight crewmember jump seats.
  • In our JetBlue core experience, complimentary food and beverage will continue but be more limited. We’ve replaced our snack baskets and beverage service with a single snack offering and water.
  • We’re temporarily suspending sales of buy-onboard products like beer, wine, or liquor, EatUp Boxes, EatUp Café, pillows, blankets and earbuds.
  • Hot towel service has been temporarily suspended.
  • The Pantry, our communal grab-and-go snack and beverage area, will not be available on those flights that usually have it.
  • We will serve food and beverage offerings as part of our Mint experience, but as an extra precaution, all glassware and mugs will be replaced with single-use cups.
  • In Mint, customers can enjoy fresh fare from our EatUp Café menu, as well as red and white wine (small, individual bottles), and beer, though Special Meals will not be available. Bottled water will continue to be available at each seat.

JetBlue has a very clear policy in place that states you should not come to work if you are sick. We have an existing generous PTO program that includes sick time. As well, we announced on March 15 that we will pay up to an additional 14 days sick time for any crewmember diagnosed with COVID-19 or if a crewmember has been instructed by the airline, a health official or a medical doctor to quarantine for any reason including the inability to secure a test. We published and posted this policy on our internal website on March 15 and emailed it to every crewmember across JetBlue. In addition to paid sick time, we are waiving all dependability programs for COVID-19 related absences. JetBlue also follows all health privacy regulations and notification requirements when becoming aware of any potential crewmember exposure.

We are encouraging our crewmembers to take voluntary time off if they have a personal situation that requires it. To offer additional flexibility, we announced an advance on PTO for crewmembers with unique situations that may require additional support. We have asked crewmembers to work directly with their leaders to address any unique personal situations. We are a company of 23,000 crewmembers and encourage each to individually work with their leader if they have a question and if they are unable to resolve their situation, as always, they can escalate it to our People Department (Human Resources).

At JetBlue, we know transportation is an important essential service. While demand has greatly reduced, we still have customers, including first responders and medical professionals, who rely on our service to get where they must go, and we are dedicated to getting them and our crewmembers there as safely as possible."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for Pabon’s funeral expenses.