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.