79-year-old flight attendant dies from COVID-19: 'She needed the money' to support her family


An American Airlines flight attendant is the latest COVID-19 victim.

Phyllis Adair, a Phoenix-based flight attendant, worked up until she contracted the novel virus.

“She loved her job. She loved being a flight attendant,” her son, George, told The Arizona Republic.

The 79-year-old also continued to work well past retirement in order to support her family. She has been with the airline since 1997.

"She flew 150 hours a month because she needed the money in order to be able to pay for her house and have assistance for the care of her husband," Catherine, Phyllis’ daughter-in-law, revealed.

Since her husband, Francis, who suffers from dementia, and her granddaughter, who suffers from a medical issue, are considered “high risk,” Phyllis remained cautious.

"Either of them getting this could kill them as well," Catherine said.

George said he saw his mother on Christmas Eve when the family spent the evening together at a restaurant.

The next day, Phyllis flew out for work. On December 28, he tested positive for COVID-19 and the rest of the family quarantined.

“So when she came home, I want to say the Monday after Christmas, we didn’t get to see her because we were afraid of exposing her to George being sick,” Catherine explained.

On January 11, she returned early from a work trip to Mexico City because she wasn’t feeling well.

She told her son that she was taken off the flight in a wheelchair.

A test revealed she was positive for COVID.

Phyllis refused to go to the hospital even as George pointed out that her lips looked blue.

"At this point, George is like, 'You're going if I have to pick you up and walk you into the car.' So she finally conceded. She went to the hospital," Catherine said.

Phyllis spent several weeks in the hospital and on a ventilator before passing away on February 2.

“American Airlines is deeply saddened by the passing of Phyllis Adair, a longtime flight attendant who was adored and respected across the airline. Our thoughts and prayers are with Phyllis’ family and loved ones during this difficult time,” American Airlines said in a statement to The Republic.

Without reliable contact tracing, it's not known how Phyllis contracted the virus.

Per the outlet, Phyllis’ story was mentioned in a congressional subcommittee hearing days after her passing. The hearing aimed to encourage Congress to pass the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to help businesses keep workers employed during COVID-19.

This prompted the family to share Phyllis’ story.

"It's the fact she's not around anymore," George said.

While many studies claim flying is safe, especially with the addition of safety precautions such as masks and better airplane cleaning, a danger still looms for flight attendants who are exposed to hundreds of passengers a day.

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