If you think that masks are a good idea – and the preponderance of evidence suggests they are, although what some people are using as masks may not be especially prophylactic – then of course you think they should be mandated on airplanes by the federal government, right?
I mean, the only people who would argue against a federal mask mandate are people who think wearing masks impinges on their freedom. A mask requirement does impinge on freedom, but not nearly as much as a public health lock down. So it’s a minor inconvenience, compared to the alternative.
Flight attendants union boss Sara Nelson, head of AFA-CWA, is calling for a federal airline mask mandate. However even though airline mask requirements may be a good idea, a federal mask mandate is not. Here are 5 reasons why:
- Unnecessary. A mask mandate isn’t necessary, every airline requires masks already – a federal mandate would just tell airlines they have to do what they’re already doing.
- Fails to meet variety of needs as well as current airline rules. A federal mandate would mean everyone has the same policy, but right now if your 2 year old won’t keep a mask on or if you need a medical exemption you have Delta as an option – different policies at different airlines can be good.
- Will be weaker than what we have now. A federal mandate would involve lobbying from interest groups and likely water down the mask mandate. Would the strongest mandates even survive? If you think that there shouldn’t be medical exemptions to masks, you shouldn’t favor a federal mandate – be happy that American, United, and Southwest all have this policy already.
- Won’t go away when the time comes. Removing rules is a slow process. Bureaucrats are inherently conservative. Public health officials would argue that wearing masks is always better, and not just for the coronavirus pandemic. If we entrench airline mask rules in law they’re likely to persist longer than necessary.
- Makes air travel even worse. Turning airline customer problems over to law enforcement is a bad idea. It took airlines a little while to figure out how to handle enforcement but after a bumpy start they’re mostly getting it right. Meanwhile creating more of an us vs. them mentality with crew, turning passengers over to law enforcement, is a road we’ve gone down before and rejected.
This idea is being pushed by the same Sara Nelson who wanted a ban on all discretionary air travel in April – which would have hurt airlines, and therefore her own union membership, even more. By the way flight attendants have had a lower rate of virus infection than the public at large despite exposure to more people and more travel. And this is the same Sara Nelson who says the flight attendant call button is for “emergency use” and it’s “not intended to be for ordering drinks.”
She’s an important political player but on this she’s completely wrong, and seems to be intentionally making the issue political, highlighting a lack of mask mandate as a failing of the current President when his challenger has publicly called for a national mask mandate.