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As much as I hate the idea of wearing a mask in-flight, I absolutely understand the near-term need for this. You’re confined in a metal tube and it only takes one unmasked cough or sneeze to potentially infect a dozen around you.
In this article
All US Airlines Now “Require” Masks – Except They Don’t
In response to this new reality, airlines have begun requiring masks.
Makes sense, right? However, enforcement is another matter altogether. I’d originally noticed a memo from American Airlines which stated “Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy will become more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy.”
Now I see that Delta and United have also indicated similar non-enforcement policies.
Why won’t they enforce mask wearing?
I actually do get this. They don’t want altercations between flight attendants (or pilots) and passengers.
Given the number of people in the US that seem to equate wearing a mask for public health as a huge infringement on their Constitutional rights to infect whomever they please, it’s a given that if flight attendants try to force the issue and the passenger remains non-compliant (or becomes belligerent) they will have their hand forced to offload the passenger or possibly even have to escalate to authorities. That, of course, creates delays.
But if the flight attendants won’t enforce, will the passengers?
I think the worse scenario is that passengers themselves get into fights about this. One passenger refusing to wear a mask may make all passengers around them feel unsafe. Keep in mind that if everyone wears a cloth covering, everyone is protected. But they are “outbound” protection, not “inbound” meaning that wearing that cloth covering won’t protect you from someone who is not wearing a mask and is breathing or sneezing the virus around. Given that we Americans are known for speaking up, I can’t see how this won’t devolve anyway – just differently than if the FA’s or Pilots were doing the talking. In fact, I think having passengers policing other passengers is worse.
Don’t forget, in an effort to control costs as flights resume, more flights are packed than you might expect. All seats filled, elbow to elbow.
The case for governmental (FAA) enforcement vs. airline enforcement
Airlines are required to follow the rules set forth by the FAA. That’s why the flight attendant makes you sit up for takeoff and landing and stow your tray table. They have to or they are subject to a fine.
I think that spread of a lethal virus is far worse than the risk of crash landing with your seat not in the upright position, don’t you?
Somebody needs to either say “Yes, the data says masks will save lives and it’s mandatory until we say otherwise.” or “No, we don’t believe masks onboard a plane will make a difference (for whatever reason).”
Can Air-Filtration Systems on Planes Make Masks Unnecessary?
It’s beyond my area of expertise, but this article implies that perhaps improvements could be made to in-flight air filtration systems such that the air filtration could actually be very effective (although not 100% effective) at filtering out even particles as small as those that carry the coronavirus. The problem still remains those directly around you, but perhaps then a combination of blocked seats and better air filtration could do it?
Again, maybe, maybe not.
Hopefully, this is short-term
I want to say again that I don’t in any way want to wear a mask on a plane. I haven’t traveled since this started and I really dread doing so with a mask. I love my premium cabin travel (using miles, of course!) and a nice long meal is generally a large part of that. I don’t even pretend to know how that works with a mask, not to mention sleeping on a long-haul flight with a mask.
Still, that’s where we are now.
So let’s either do it, or not do it. But let’s be consistent.
Do you agree? Or disagree?
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