American Airlines Will Begin Requiring Passengers To Wear Face Masks

Starting May 11 American Airlines will require all passengers wear “a face covering (or mask) while on board the aircraft.” This follows a move first made by JetBlue and copied by Frontier.

To show how quickly things are changing – the modern day equivalent of one being as a thousand years and a thousand years one day – it was only Monday that American announced flight attendants would be required to wear masks and that starting May 1 they’d begin to roll out complimentary masks for customers as an option, subject to supply chain and operational constraints.

Indeed it was just six weeks ago that American still disciplined flight attendants who wore masks.

On the one hand, the thinking went, seeing masks projected an image that there’s something to be protected from on the plane. Airlines have been messaging their cleaning regimens and air filtration. Only Delta says air travel is unsafe.

However it’s become clear that customers are more comfortable when other passengers are wearing masks. Regardless of the inevitable debate in the comments over the efficacy of non-respirator masks, it’s clear that when customers know this is required of everyone else on board they’ll be more comfortable traveling. And if they saw it required on other airlines, but they didn’t have confidence everyone around them would wear masks on American, they might consider booking a different airline.

Face masks are going to have staying power even after the immediate risk from the new coronavirus subsides. They became commonplace flying in Asia after SARS. What will be interesting to see is at what point the requirement ultimately lifts and wearing a mask becomes merely voluntary again.

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. So this is the new normal. When does the old normal become normal again? I am not disputing wearing of masks today, but at some point they shouldn’t be mandatory.

  2. As if ANYBODY needed another reason not to fly, now you need to wear a pain in the behind mask, just to make things feel a little bit more like torture,sorry,airlines are cooked , stick a fork in em , they will never recover to where they were ,with all the testing and different requirements there will be to fly , an already miserable event just got a lot more miserable.

  3. Dean: c’mon. Wearing a simple mask that keeps YOUR spittle from infecting me isn’t that onerous. No big deal. Consider that no one with any manners would fly with a contagious disease, and few of us know whether we may or may not have such. Isn’t it PRUDENT to take a simple precaution? Or is that small gesture too invasive for you? After 60,000 Americans have DIED? I am FINE with wearing a mask, and I wish AA well in coming back. This temporary measure is the least we can do for each other.

  4. Hopefully this will be like Lufthansa, temporary until Aug. 31 or something. I suppose officially I could not wear one, due to the breathing problems I have, exacerbated by wearing it (I am supposed to have surgery for this at some point), but then I just look like I am not complying and have to explain and it’s awful. I happen to be flying May 11, though it’s two short flights. And no, flying is uncomfortable enough on the long haul. Even without the issues I have, I don’t want something scratching my face for 8 hours when I can just as easily hone into the window and sleep. You cannot sneeze into a mask anyway. Remember handkerchiefs? Those would work just fine if common people used manners. It’s not airborne. I will definitely tone down flying because breathing is cool. I would like an option to show a negative test or antibodies test (which I can). SOMETHING.

  5. My guess is this will be relaxed by end of summer provided there isn’t a major reoccurence of the virus. Also, REALLY easy to implement ideas like this and block seats when capacity is down and only people that basically have to fly are on the planes.

    When it becomes more discretionary I expect the requirement to be taken down. I frankly still don’t understand the logic of requirement face masks but continuing to serve food and drinks with an allowance the masks can come off during meals. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose?

    Also, I don’t plan to fly again until, at the earliest, very end of September when I have a planned trip to Las Vegas (based on requirements there that trip may be cancelled). If I’m in first class and have a drink most of the flight do I keep the mask off, remove it to take a sip and then put it back on or snake a straw in under the mask? Not trying to be a smart ass – really curious. Also, I definitely will wear a loosely fitted cloth mask provided it is still required when I fly (which fully meets their requirements) versus something tight or more medical in nature for comfort (which again IMHO defeats much of the reasoning but if that is allowed I’ll do it).

    BTW Gary I agree masks on planes were common after SARS but over the past few years, even flying to/from Asia, I have seen a very small percentage of people wearing them so if elective it definitely dies out over time.

  6. I expected this was coming. I believe AA should have at least announced this as a temporary measure and provided an end date. I respect everyone’s right to wear a face mask if they choose. However, I don’t think this should be compulsory.

    Passengers will have to remove their face coverings to eat, drink, sneeze, blow their noses, etc. Does this not reduce the effectiveness of the masks? What will be the acceptable amount of time for a passenger to have their face mask off when performing one of these tasks? Will we see flight attendants scolding passengers for not immediately redonning their face coverings after taking a drink? How long before we see a flight diverted due to a face covering incident onboard?

    Not only are face masks uncomfortable, but they impair our ability to see expressions on each other’s faces. That may seem inconsequential, but those expressions — a smile, a grin, a smirk, a frown — are an essential part of our interactions with other people. They are part of what makes us human.

    I’m ready for this to policy to go away before it even begins.

  7. Now Now, SST , {who cowardly hides their name by just using initials, then berates others on this board for their opinion }believes it’s a great idea, so therefore we all should,so what if it adds to your misery, we should have to pay to be miserable ,right SST ?

  8. Oh yes. Being able to see each other‘s expressions is such a human Experrriencce, and definitely takes precedence over dying from an infectious disease. I cannot believe the things that come out of people‘s mouth’s. Truly truly unbelievable.

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