I wrote yesterday about an American Airlines flight service manager calling a flight attendant who had been reported for wearing a face mask. The airline confirmed this was against policy.
All over the world people are wearing masks now, especially in countries that have been most effective at containing the spread of COVID-19. Masks provide only limited protection for most wearers, though they do help to prevent the spread of the virus by the person wearing a mask.
Flight attendants are being asked to work trips to New York, to Seattle, and other areas of current concern. Passengers on board are often wearing masks. Alitalia required passengers to do so as a condition of flying.
United and Delta are both allowing flight attendants to wear masks. My call out over American policy was shared several thousand times, and picked up by others as well.
And now American has reversed its policy. Flight attendants now have the option of wearing masks, and will not be disciplined for doing so.
The following memo was sent out to cabin crew mid-afternoon on Sunday:
Latest from Jill Surdek
Face mask policy
In the last few days, we’ve seen an increase in questions from our team asking to wear face masks on the plane. There have been no changes to CDC recommendations regarding face masks for crews. They still do not consider it an effective protection again the virus. Health experts say the single most effective way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to wash your hands with soap and water, and avoid touching your mouth, nose, eyes and face. Face masks are impactful when worn by sick people. Nonetheless, some of you have said that it would make you feel safer and comfortable to wear a mask, so we will now permit this.
Starting today, flight attendants may wear face masks during all phases of flight, regardless of destination. Having said that, you’ve likely seen in the news there is a worldwide shortage of masks. That’s why we do not have inventory to supply face masks for each flight attendant. As a result, if you’d like to wear a mask, you’ll need to supply your own – and it should be a neutral color.
We’ve also seen reports of entire supplies of face masks being stripped from the kits onboard, which is creating a shortage. Please do not remove masks from the Grab and Go or Ancillary* (ANC) kits unless you are taking care of a sick customer. Due to the worldwide shortage of masks, we must conserve the ones supplied on the aircraft for confirmed medical emergencies. If you remove masks from these kits, please inform the captain by using a Cabin Discrepancy Worksheet (CDW), and fill out a CERS report within 24 hours.
* Note: The Ancillary kit may only be opened after contacting the physician on-call (POC).
Kudos to American Airlines for hearing the concern and re-considering its policy.