Dear American Airlines, Masks Don’t Help When Your Employees Won’t Wear Them

It usually takes multiple violations before American Airlines will ban a passenger for refusing to wear a mask, but it’s a requirement now. This took moving heaven and earth, three months ago flight attendants were being threatened with discipline for daring to wear one.

We know a lot more now. British researchers recently found that everyone wearing 50% effective masks is enough to slow the spread of the virus (homemade masks are probably more than 50% effective). A German study found masks reduce the growth rate of infections by 40%. And use of quality masks by half the population does the same thing. Wearing masks also encourages social distancing based on a study out of Italy – seeing the masks reminds us to stay away.

My home state of Texas is seeing a surge of cases, including in the Dallas area. But American Airlines flight crew at DFW and Dallas-based ground staff were photographed not wearing masks. Employees may take off masks briefly from time to time, such as to make an announcement over the PA system, but that doesn’t appear to be what’s happening here.

When airline employees don’t wear masks, they’re endangering passengers and scaring them away. That’s bad for business. And when employees don’t wear masks, passengers model them. It’s tough to get passengers to wear masks when pilots don’t. It sends mixed messages, masks are required but not really or not for everyone. Some readers will believe they should be ‘special’ (a.k.a. infectious), too. Here’s video of a passenger being kicked off a recent flight over masks. (HT: Tommy L.)

Guy in red shirt made our flight sit on the tarmac for an extra 2 hours as he refused to wear a mask. He finally put one on after they told him the police were on their way, but at that point the entire flight was forced to deplane and reboard later. Several people missed connections from r/PublicFreakout

If airlines are going to ban passengers who don’t wear masks – and they should – the requirement needs to be enforced for employees too.

American Airlines, for its part, shares that masks are absolutely a requirement for employees.

In May, we began requiring face coverings for all team members while at work as part of our ongoing commitment to the safety and well-being of our team and customers. Specifically, face coverings were required for all team members when six feet of social distance can’t be maintained at work, including in break areas and crew rooms.

As an update to our current policy, team members are now required to wear a face covering at all times while in customer areas and during customer interactions — regardless of whether six feet of social distance can be maintained. We continue to send reminders out to our team members regarding these requirements, and will review all cases when a customer flags that a team member is not wearing a face covering.

Wearing a mask really is not that hard. We don’t have to adjust our behavior forever. There’s a good chance we have solid therapies before the end of fall, such as antibody plasma therapy as well as repurposed drugs beyond just remdesivir. And I’m more hopeful for a vaccine in 2021 than I’ve ever been. Did you know that China is giving an inactivated virus-based vaccine to its military? This isn’t likely to be as effective as what’s coming from other drug companies, though it’s going to enter human trials in Canada.

We just hopefully need to stay safe for a little while longer, months aren’t that long for most of us in the grand scheme of things and those for whom months are eternities are at the greatest risk. Then travel can get back to normal though people won’t totally change their habits back overnight and fully return to the skies.

(HT: @DrEricDing)

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. I agree with you here. The number of flight crew I see on youtube/IG taking pictures/videos on the plane or even on layovers in public without masks makes me wonder if people even grasp infections, and how viruses exist off planes as well as on.

  2. Simple solution. There are plenty of pilots out of work. This pilot doesn’t want to wear a mask? Fire him and bring in a pilot that will. Problem solved. There are no shortage of pilots anymore, so airlines shouldn’t have to put up with employees that pull this crap.

  3. Just was in AMS – airport employees are not wearing masks. I asked about it in duty-free and was told some lame story about “no one wants to wear them all day”, “too hot” and that they are “uncomfortable”.
    I replied with an “oh”, through my mask.

    Arriving in AGP, everyone was in masks, several with face shields.

  4. First of all, this is Dallas it’s very similar to Florida in that people are ignorant and think the virus isn’t real or won’t effect them personally. Captains and First officers are infamous for being against masks and saying it’s not needed or the pandemic is being too exaggerated.

    I do agree in that they should be reported for breaking rules and ignoring the policies in place by their airline. Trump has yet to mandate the masks nationwide so clearly the leadership will continue to fail.

  5. It is super annoying especially when AA staff post videos of themselves not wearing a mask at work, and then tell critics who question why they aren’t wearing a mask to “mind your own body”. I am. Your mask protects ME from YOUR germs. If I wear a mask its mostly because I am protecting you. That is how they work most effectively. It is a fundamental misunderstanding about who benefits most when you wear a mask and demonstrates the incredible misinformation we’ve been fed, the mixed messages about how important it is to wear them, and what a shitty selfish society as a whole we’ve become that a service provider’s first response to the people they serve critiquing them is “mind your own self” not listening to them. Ugh.

  6. There should be no mask requirement. Masks are unnatural and actually decreases oxygen into body. CDC states masks have very little to no help. Masks keep whatever virus is on mask to last longer than not wearing mask. Stop watching CNN and do your own homework thru alternate news sites, Media does not allow counter news from Qualified Experts. Big tech deletes and bans info about this over hype virus. About 150,000 die everyday worldwide times 100 days since all day coverage = 15 million dead. Military nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY did undercover investigation and documented her patient as wrongful person testing covid positive and placed her patient on Ventilator with heavy sedation that death did occur because patient never wakes up and dies in sleep and would count as Covid 19 death. []. Military nurse above was to go on Tucker Carlson that was canceled.

  7. Anthony – Thanks for the racist over generalization on Dallas (It’s over 50% minority). Wherever you’re from, please stay there.

  8. Robert – I’m not sure we’ve had enough time to know enough exactly how this virus lives and is transferred. At the VERY least, wearing a mask right now is the polite thing to do. At best, it saves lives. If you don’t want to wear a mask, stay home for a few months. No harm, no foul. Stay safe!

  9. @Anthony – Trump doesn’t have the authority to require people to wear masks. States & localities have that power, NOT the federal government.

  10. “And when employees don’t wear masks, passengers model them.”

    You’re kidding, right?
    Funny how passengers don’t feel compelled to ‘model’ the crew when the seatbelt sign is on and the crew are strapped in their jumpseats.


  11. Very encouraging. We need more people stepping up and exposing the lunacy of the fear mask. The only path to normalcy is to make a mockery of these mandates.

    What else is going to wake up the sheep?

  12. I’m with @Bill. If employees are unwilling to follow the required safety requirements, fire them. It makes it a lot easier to figure out who to let go when cutting back staff. As to passengers doing the same, put them on the No-Fly List. They can then enjoy the pleasures of driving cross country, riding Ed Bastian’s Amtrak, and taking cruise ships for international travel.

  13. @Christian/@Bill,

    Really? Fire them? Good luck with that. Their unions are pretty adept at keeping their members employed for much, much worse.

    The crew, like passengers shouldn’t be forced to wear masks. If someone chooses to wear it, fine. If they don’t, also fine. Someone above suggested wearing a mask was the polite thing to do. Mom told me I could be anything I wanted when grew up, I chose very un-polite a-hole.

  14. @Brian

    I don’t care if he has the authority or not he clearly has the authority to apply pressure on things he cares about, but instead cares more about golfing. Republicans listen to whatever he says like sheep so if he told them they should mandate masks then they would!

    @Gonzo I’m black and I’m hardly racist. Dallas & Florida are known for ignorant racist people and if this bothers you please stay amongst your ignorant racist community. Ok, thank you 🙂

  15. Yet another reason why I won’t fly during this pandemic. I hope that those who do fly are wearing their masks and are tweeting about airline crew members who are not. Twitter can be a very effective instrument of social change.

  16. I personally would worry if the pilot qas wearing a mask… clearly he wouldn’t be getting enough oxygen to his brain!

  17. Well, the GM at the Tak Mahal Palace Mumbai had a PR photo taken in the lobby of her hotel without a mask.
    Ironically the article was about the efforts made by the hotel during the Covid crisis.

  18. I connected on AA flights at CLT on 6/13. During my one hour layover I counted 4 pilots and one GA and one FA in the terminal without masks, and was not looking very hard. Of course pilots are gods, so do as they wish, but a GA working a gate, and a FA strolling through crowded CLT have no excuse. And since masks maybe 1/3 of the passengers did not wear masks in the terminal, even while waiting in very long lines for food that passengers had to cut through.

    On June 26th the state began requiring masks at CLT and all other public spaces. Its kinda late to close that barn door, but it had to be done.

  19. Well based on that guy’s wings he’s not even an American Airlines pilot. He looks to be an employee of Mesa which is contracted by American Airlines. So discipline will be directed at Mesa Airlines.

  20. Try being an employee on the tarmac, lifting up to 75 lb bags by yourself with only 10 minutes to get them to the next connection, or having 100 bags by yourself to take to the Local claim in 20 minutes with a mask on. It’s very hard, especially for those with high blood pressure, breathing conditions, etc.. but thanks to people who wouldn’t stop crying about it, now all employees, even those who work outside have to keep a mask on. I’ve seen people pass out from not getting enough oxygen. Now they’re using the DFW police to escort employees off the airport who are caught without a mask just trying to get fresh air. I’ve always worn a mask in the terminal but now on the tarmac too with the kind of job we do??
    Not humane.

  21. I wear mine at work, they fired a guy for refusing to wear one. Tulsa Maintenance base isn’t the problem

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