Sara Nelson, head of the AFA-CWA flight attendants union, is an influential labor leader with juice in the Democratic Party. While she was instrumental in securing bailouts for the airline industry, she doesn’t always get what she wants – Nelson was an advocate for a ban on leisure travel during the pandemic.
Nonetheless, Nelson’s AFA-CWA is pushing for an extension of the federal transportation mask mandate which currently runs through March 18. And she’s joined by the union representing cabin crew at American Airlines.
- I have written that the mask mandate will most certainly end before the election, because the Biden administration needs to declare victory on the virus (and doing so sunsets the CDC’s regulation underlying the rule).
- However they do not want to be proven to have done so too early, so my guess is they probably extend it one more time for a couple of months before allowing it to end in summer.
Nelson’s union is confused on its reasons for the mandate. It’s about the children but also justified by business reasons (so why would a mandate be needed, airlines required masks for their own business reasons before the federal government got involved).
“Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine.”
[Spokesperson] Garland said masks help maintain passenger confidence in air travel. Despite a rapid return to air travel, passenger numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels, especially business and international travel.
Business travel is limited because many companies haven’t returned to office, and international travel because of restrictions imposed by governments – masks are in place now and haven’t led to a resurgence in business and international travel so it’s not clear why the mandate supports that.
Meanwhile, American’s flight attendants union says what about the children.
“While more of the world now has access to life-saving vaccines, we still have a significant portion of the population that are vulnerable, including our youngest passengers,” said Paul Hartshorn, a spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents about 24,550 employees at Fort Worth-based American Airlines.
Nevermind that children under 5 for whom vaccines aren’t approved are at less risk than fully vaccinated adults. The FDA postponed consideration of Pfizer’s vaccine for those aged 6 months to 4 years, despite zero safety concerns and strong efficacy for those up to age 2, because it’s likely to require a third dose for 3 and 4 year olds and they don’t have that data yet and won’t let children get a head start on the first two doses now.
Pfizer's submitted data says 2 doses works for very young kids.
FDA pushing Pfizer to test three doses to get a stronger response for older kids suggest safety isn't the issue.
So why not let parents who want to vaccinate their children, start vaccinating their children?
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) February 11, 2022
I don’t mind masks, they are mildly annoying but I wear them even when not required when it seems respectful to others around me. I was an early proponent of masks before they were broadly recommended, arguing that flight attendants should be allowed to wear them in March 2020 when it still wasn’t permitted. And I’ve been an advocate of using better masks.
However at some point the availability of vaccines, treatments, and good quality N95 masks for those who wish to wear them means that they shouldn’t be required of everyone. I’ll probably wear one myself during flu (and Covid) season going forward but a government requirement here doesn’t make sense and, since not authorized by Congress, may not even be legal to begin with.