American Airlines CEO: Why Passenger Mask Incidents May Rise This Summer

At a recent American Airlines employee question and answer event, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, a flight attendant asked CEO Doug Parker about frequent inflight incidents with passengers. Parker acknowledged, “much of it is due to the masks, I know.”

American Airlines lobbied the federal government for a mask mandate, and Parker explained “there is a federal mandate until September 13th. The masks are required for all customers. It is a mandate, it is a federal mandate, it has to be enforced.”

Parker continued,

You are in the difficult position of enforcing it, but you have the backing of the federal government which requires us to enforce it. So please enforce it. Those who do not comply need to be dealt with accordingly. You all know how to do that and are doing it exceptionally well.

The CEO gave employees hope, though, that the mask mandate only has a few months left to it offering, “We’ll get to September 13th, but we’ve got to get there by enforcing the mandate.”

As to why this is important when “the CDC said if you’re vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask” it’s because “we don’t know who is vaccinated or not” on a plane. Not that this really matters,

  • If you’re vaccinated you’re at little risk, especially on a plane with HEPA air filtration and downward air flow.
  • Nearly every teen and adult who is not vaccinated is exercising a choice and that shouldn’t impose a requirement on others.
  • Those younger than 12 are at statistically even lower risk than older Americans who are vaccinated.

Parker predicts that the conflicts over masks “may get even harder between now and September 13th.”
His solution? “We just need to be much stronger on this message and make people understand. That’s why we want to enforce it. That’s why people want to see it enforced.”

So far that’s worked so well that 76% of passenger incidents reported to the FAA during the first five months of 2021 were over masks.

Brady Byrnes reported to flight attendants that they are going to starting seeing updates on the outcome when they write up passengers, which they think will help encourage flight attendants that writing up non-compliant customers matters.

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. Every one knows that facial coverings are planes are charades. Half the people don’t wear them properly, or take them off when the FA’s aren’t around.

    Too bad President Vegetable State and Secretary of Transportation Buttplug are holding everyone hostage for political points when they can put up the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

  2. The logical action on the part of Parker would be to reconsider the mask mandate continuing until Sept. 13. and asking for a rule change. That would be leadership. Who is it protecting? And what is the cost? (Clearly increased bad behavior on the part of passengers.) Or are you enforcing it because it’s a rule that you asked for and it would damage your ego to admit that continuing it was a mistake. Or are you engaged in “180ism”, the Red Team wants masks eliminated, therefore you must adopt the opposite position, as anything the Red Team proposes, you must be against, even if you were once for it.

    The question that should be asked is, if the mandate were scheduled to expire tomorrow, would you continue it until Sept. 13? If no, then it should be rescinded in the face of new information. (It can always be reimposed if conditions warrant.) But bureaucracy is a coward, continuing the status quo is always the safe course of action.

    I propose everyone continue to wear the masks, but start an incessant chant on every flight that “Masks Suck”. It’ll make the passengers feel better at a little civil disobedience and perhaps get the flight crews to lobby the airline to change their stance.

  3. @john … You recall, twenty years ago, GWB’s ‘Mission Accomplished” banner? How did that work out for us?

    We follow the guidance of validated scientific findings to make decisions that benefit the greater good of humanity. To not do so is, well, inhumane. Personal liberties are just that … personal choices. You are free to exercise them – on your own. Cheers!

  4. The mask mandate helps to support the airline business. Without a mask mandate, a lot of people who are still cautious after wearing masks for over a year and a half wouldn’t fly. This is also why some business in California are still requiring masks. Until they see a majority of people not wanting to wear masks, they are just turning away customers if they don’t require them.

  5. On Friday the WHO said we all need to go back to wearing masks indoors due to the Delta variant. Israel has seen a surge after a strong vaccine campaign and is back to requiring masks indoors. The UK is seeing another surge of cases due to the Delta variant.

    I hate to say it folks, but within a month’s time we’re likely to be back to indoor masks again in the US. Enjoy the fresh air now…it seems like the next wave is coming soon…

    We all want this to be over…it but it won’t be over until infections come down and stay down.

  6. AA, AA, AA while Gary constantly ignores the mess Southwest has again. Me thinks Gary is getting a little something from Southwest.

  7. Many people who would like to travel are immune suppressed or immune deficient. My body does not make antibodies; I have no protection from the vaccine. My protection depends largely on masks. To an uncomfortable degree, this means that I depend on other people to wear masks. Certainly, I don’t have to fly. I have made that choice, despite wishing to see that two family members who are in very poor health. I may never see my sister or mother-in-law again. I cannot believe that airlines cannot make some adjustments for the thousands of people whose lives continue to be threatened by the pandemic.

  8. Well Dr. Gary if you are at soo little risk of COVID if fully vaccinated can you please explain why half of the people with new Delta variant in Israel are people who were vaccinated? Might be worth noting that the WHO disagrees with you and issued a statement that being fully vaccinated is not enough to stop the spread and they are advising even fully vaccinated people to keep wearing masks.

  9. Israel’s issue is because they won’t share vaccines with the West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank borders are closer to Israel than Dallas is to Fort Worth. My friends who are Palestinian who live in Jerusalem were allowed vaccines, but those over the border were not. Now what do you think is going to happen when you live in proximity with people and don’t allow millions to be vaccinated. Palestinians still hold work permits in Israel, as one example. Forget you Israeli/Palestinian politics. If you actually know the geography and have been there (I have and am in contact) you would have seen this coming. It’s never been. Good example for anything. Find one that is.

  10. @BIll WHO issued a statement saying vaccinated people should wear masks because of risk of spread from asymptomatic individuals, remember they’re not just talking about the mRNA vaccines which are the ones predominantly in use in the US and where CDC data shows they prevent not just infection and disease but also spread.

    The numbers in Israel are still small. Some of the people testing positive have been vaccinated. But we don’t have details showing they’re either getting seriously ill or spreading the virus.

  11. He’s right. Mask trouble will continue. Why? Because everybody knows its bullshit and they’re done with playing along. Know what might help?…..restoring civility and just a slight bit of elegance. The seats are smaller and closer together, flight attendants are surly and inattentive, the is no more food even when many airport options are still closed because employees would rather be on the dole. Inflight entertainment? There is none unless you’re on DL or NK. Delta has seatback tv, Spirit has inflight ghetto bouts which potentially could be wagered on. UA seatback video is always broken so they don’t count. Let’s get rid of flight attendants. Of course, the union won’t let them do that, so let’s take away the wings and give them little safety badges….we can call them “safety wardens” or something and their primary role will be keeping jumpsests warm and flirting with the fo when he comes out for a 45 minute piss break. Then we can put a new employee onboard. We’ll call them “onboard customer service agents”. They can greet passengers, serve food and drinks and be the customer-focused face of the airline while in the air.

  12. Because more people fly in the summer with kids out of school and warmer weather…and the ignorant airlines are still harassing their paying passengers by making them wear masks for absolutely no reason. They claimed they were following CDC/WHO guidance when they started the stupidity and now even though both health orgs say masks are no longer needed, they still want to screw their paying passengers a bit more just because they enjoy it! Why else would they be doing it? I’m 100% sure some ignorant folks will come in with their own stupidity about how everyone else should be inconvenienced to make them feel better though.

  13. I don’t think it’s fair to say teens have a choice. Many places won’t allow kids to be vaccinated without parental consent. It’s difficult to put them in a position they aren’t in by choice (although many would probably not get one, due to family socialization).

  14. Wake up Gary and cover how Israel — the world’s best at vaccinating — just reintroduced a mask mandate for EVERYONE (vaccinated or not) for EVERYWHERE INDOORS (not just planes). Masks work and are necessary.

    And wearing a mask is so easy!

  15. @john can hardly wait for the imprisoned #45 to be released from prison and reinstated. I guess your hate for gays must make it hard to hide during Gay Pride Month. You should get in touch with @Jackson Waterson, I am sure you two will become besties. It does scare me knowing fools like you could be on my flight.

  16. Jake: The last thing we should be doing is follow the country that has taken militant ignorance to an art form, pioneered professional victimization to make it their national identity, and have taken greed to levels never before seen in the world all based on thousands year old fairy tales.

    What you personally need to get through your rather thick skull is no matter how much you google things and try to twist them to justify your ignorance, no matter how much you like the sound of your own voice, no matter how much you get off on trying to make other people do what you want….you have no right to enforce your will on others to suit your own ignorance.

  17. Wish I could post a pic of the mask I wear on planes. The second layer is full of holes. Looks like Swiss cheese. My way of protesting! I do breath better.

  18. ßRyan Waldron:
    “They claimed they were following CDC/WHO guidance when they started the stupidity and now even though both health orgs say masks are no longer needed…”

    The CDC say masks are no longer needed BY THOSE WHOM ARE FULLY VACCINATED.

    The WHO recommends continuing safety measures, whether fully vaccinated or not.

  19. A: Is the airline/FAA policy “THOSE WHO ARE FULLY VACCINATED”? No….exactly. They just make it up as they go along. You look at the private emails of the top virologists being gained via FOIA requests where they are saying that the masks that people have are useless! The proper masks that nobody use are only useful on the faces of sick patients to prevent them spreading it. Exactly what myself and other sane people who are not consumed by their own ego, ignorance, and need to enforce their will on others for their own gratification have been saying all along!!!!! Next time if you don’t have have anything useful to add, just don’t bother wasting everyone’s time.

  20. @A – remember that WHO advice isn’t primarily directed at countries (the US) that are using mRNA vaccines, this is broad advice that includes full vaccination with much less effective Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines

  21. @Ryan Waldron, my point is that YOU are saying CDC & WHO have both said masks aren’t necessary. As if it was a blanket “NO ONE needs to wear one anymore.” That is simply not true. I didn’t speak to airlines’ nor FAA policy, so your response is grasping at straws.

    FWIW, I don’t happen to agree with mask wearing, for the most part; people don’t often wear them correctly and they aren’t treated as the highly contagious bio-hazard they surely must be, with all those cooties being breathed into and around their edges. I don’t like them, I think they’re stupid and uncomfortable, so I got vaccinated, and now the CDC says I don’t have to wear one. You know, until the no-maskers go ahead and £¥<# it up for the rest of us.

    Also FWIW, I didn't attack you on a personal level, perhaps you could extend the same courtesy.

    @Gary Leff, understood, but I'm sure WHO hasn't recommended masklessness for EVERYONE in the US, regardless the make and model of vaccine.

    Y'all, private and public entities are still permitted to establish policy for their establishments and businesses, whether it's based on science, whim, voodoo… at least here in 'Murica. And people who don't like it are free to not use that business. And also, because…'Murica, they are free to whinge and complain and bitch about it. And other people are free to counterpoint.

    Personally, I suspect the unvaccinated, unmasked masses will soon Darwin themselves out of mattering. They're the ones who are getting sick and dying right now.

  22. A: Again with the voices in your head. I never said everyone. I am fully immunized. You really should learn to stop putting words into other people’s mouths to try and validate your ignorance and make yourself feel better. I personally don’t think that anyone should wear them. Sensible people like myself who are vaccinated have nothing to worry about. The anti-vaxer idiots can get it and remove themselves from the gene pool in record numbers. It will only serve to deepen the ever shallowing gene pool in this country. I personally think the only way our species will survive much longer is if we stop interfering with natural selection amongst ourselves. Let stupidity take care of it’s self.

  23. @Ryan.

    Pfft. I never said you said everyone.

    Apparently you can’t be courteous.

    You used the word “myself” incorrectly. At least twice. Please consider this paragraph me removing a word from your mouth. Now we’re even.

  24. A: Seeing how it is obviously past your bedtime from the mentality in your comments, all I can say is grow the hell up. I give courtesy where it is due and little twits like you don’t qualify…..sorry.

  25. the Mask need to go away! Most States have now officially done that so since everyone’s hanging out at theaters, sports activities, music venues, bars, Disney World / Land… the point is…. Everyone is attending large crowd activities so why should you be forced to wear a useless cloth covering in a tube? it’s common sense folks…. IF you want to feel safe from the so called “Virus” then wear a Germ Suit!! Shouldn’t we all be wearing Germ Suits IF it’s that bad????

  26. Tomi Lahren is a right wing [redacted]. I am totally again hitting women but would make an exception for her.

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