American Airlines CEO: When Feds Drop Mask Mandate, We Will Too

When the pandemic first hit, the CDC recommended against mask-wearing. In past that was because they were using a flu model, assuming transmission was primarily from surfaces and droplets rather than aerosols. And in part it was a ‘noble lie’ to keep people from competing with government and the health care sector from obtaining masks.

It was clear early on that transmission wasn’t working the way that the CDC said – from the South Korea call center in January 2020 where the virus spread across the floor, to the air conditioning study in a restaurant in China at the start of the pandemic (blowing virus-laden air through the restaurant), to the Seattle choir superspreader event in March 2020 – and that high quality masks, properly worn could be protective. Airlines were wrong to discipline flight attendants who wore masks for violating uniform standards.

JetBlue because the first U.S. airline to require passengers to wear face masks. Others quickly followed. All U.S. airlines required them by the time the Biden administration made it a federal rule.

So there’s been some question about whether the sunsetting of a federal rule would mean that airlines would lift their requirements.

  • Airline rules predated the government rule, and were about giving passengers confidence to fly. Masks are likely no longer needed for that.

  • But some destinations may still require masks and it’s cumbersome to figure out which flights need to require masks and which do not.

  • When the U.K. lifted the masking requirement for airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic kept theirs anyway. When BA announced they’d finally lift their requirement except on flights where the destination required it, they didn’t actually meet their deadline to do so because they couldn’t sort out the ‘which flights still need it’ piece.

Outgoing American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, though, answered the question once and for all about what American will do when the federal government no longer requires masks on planes – American will lift its requirement, too. In fact he no longer sees it as an airline requirement at all, just a federal one.

Here’s what Parker told a gathering of employees in a Crew News internal questiona and answer session,

I’m looking forward to the day it’s not required anymore too. I hope that’ll be April 18th, we’ll see. But if it is April 18th, then of course there’s no requirement. This isn’t a company policy, we’re following a company mandate. So this is the first time I’ve done this in awhile that I’m not wearing a mask. We don’t have masks required in buildings anymore in America. We won’t have masks required at American for our customers or our flight attendants or our employees.

I’m now speaking out of school because I’m not going to be here to make this decision, but I’m certain that Robert and team will also decide that if you want to wear a mask you can. It’s a new world now. Prior to the, I remember when the pandemic first broke we actually were going back and forth about whether it’s ok for flight attendants to wear a mask if they wanted to.

…Here’s what I believe: the mandate will go away, if you want to keep wearing a mask because personal preference, fine. If you want to wear gloves, fine. I think you’ll see that throughout the country. Some people will still want to wear them. And if they want to fantastic. But if you don’t you don’t have to.

Parker thinks the mask mandate will end April 18, and that means no more masks required on American Airlines planes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s become ridiculously discordant that we’re now going maskless pretty much everywhere . . . except the moment we step into an airport terminal or plane (often where all the passengers have been subject to a pre-departure test of Covid). It’s now clearly about power, and not at all about health. I’ll be flying foreign carriers to whatever extent its necessary to avoid wearing a mask . . . although the madness of some foreign carriers (i.e., Brazil, where they are still de-boarding planes a row at a time to avoid crowding, before spilling them into a crowded terminal and a maskless city).

  2. @Mak- That’s not true. There are plenty of people who are still wearing masks indoors and sometimes even outdoors. Also, people aren’t subject to pre-departure tests when flying within the US.

  3. @Alan Interesting how you seem to have some basic recognition that we are all pawns in the Biden Administration’s power play, yet you simultaneously absolve that gang by blaming the Chinese. When people like you get straight on who is oppressing you (hint: it’s not the Chinese) maybe we’ll see some change in the USA.

  4. Mak is so very right…this is the lone, dumb holdout…the terminals and planes. I went to the airport to get someone the other day…totally forgot about the mast, becuase, well, I hadn’t worn one in weeks.

  5. American has made no such decision.

    “I’m now speaking out of school because I’m not going to be here to make this decision, but I’m certain that Robert and team will also decide that if you want to wear a mask you can.”

    Many have no problem killing off their fellow Americans for the sake of avoiding the intolerable burden of wearing a mask. It is an easy decision for them because we can’t tell who killed who.

    Airlines adopted the mask rule to give customers confidence to buy tickets. When the requirement is dropped, the same motivation will be the basis for it.

  6. Can’t wait for the joint Airlines for America announcement so no one airline has to deal with the, “bUt MuH pErSoNaL sAfEtY” crowd.

  7. @Alan
    Just a reminder that all this started during the Chump regime and that makes you a “Chump Fool.”

  8. The good news in the whole article is Parker is leaving in 2 weeks. The guy should just shut up and leave in disgrace.

  9. I think it will be quite some time before some people are willing to take off their masks. I have no problem with them choosing to continue to wear a mask, but it is past time now to stop letting them have the power to make rules that apply to the rest of us.

    But the other thing that needs to go is the one-day testing requirement for returning to the U.S., even for those of us who are fully vaccinated. That is accomplishing nothing now except for providing a revenue stream to the service providers and creating unnecessary concern for travelers.

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