Are Face Masks for Passengers the Future of Air Travel?

A flight attendant with face mask and eye shield

By Paul Riegler on 25 April 2020
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Planning to wear a face mask on your next flight? You won’t be alone.  Across the globe, as the novel coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, airline personnel and travelers are donning masks, both voluntarily and due to government regulation.

Although air travel today is a pale imitation of what it was in February, experts and industry leaders expect people to return to the skies once the coronavirus pandemic is under control. To accomplish this, however, it needs to be done in a manner that allows people to feel safe in resuming activities such as travel that were put on hold amidst the outbreak.

Once the Covid-19 crisis ceases to monopolize the news cycle, a recovery in demand for travel will largely depend on this and regulators are taking the first steps in this direction.

In Canada, new government regulations require both cabin crew and passengers to wear face coverings during the boarding process and while in flight. In the United States, United Airlines on Friday joined JetBlue in mandating face masks for cabin crew.  JetBlue implemented the policy on April 17.  Italy and the United Arab Emirates also mandate face coverings for passengers while in flight.

The move was followed by a letter from the head of the Association of Flight Attendants, a union that represents crewmembers who work for 20 carriers including United, asking that the federal government mandate face coverings for passengers as well as crew.

The letter from AFA President Sara Nelson, whose contents were since made public, asks the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Human Services to mandate masks for all airline and airport employees as well as passengers, to require personal protective equipment for flight attendants, and to end leisure travel until the current situation is contained.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents some 27,000 American Airlines cabin crew, wants to see flight attendants who work flights receive “hazard pay,”

“Hundreds of our members have tested positive for the virus, and we know this number continues to grow,” said the union’s new national president, Julie Hedrick, in a letter to Congressman Peter DeFazio, head of the House Transportation Committee.

“Tragically, two of our members have passed away from this disease,” she said in the letter, adding that face masks need to be mandatory for passengers as well.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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