When face mask policies were introduced for air travel last year, ‘but I’m drinking’ became a common excuse and passengers could nurse a Starbucks throughout the entire flight. This is no longer acceptable, or at least while some passengers will still do it – and some flight attendants allow it – the rule doesn’t permit it and you may get kicked off the plane.
This is what happened on a United Airlines flight in Austin Thursday morning, where one passenger made it abundantly clear prior to departure that they planned to use eating as a way to avoid mask-wearing for the duration of a short hop to Houston.
Both Southwest (Houston Hobby) and United (Houston Intercontinental) offer flights to Costa Rica via Houston, but since he reports making his connection and drinking a bloody mary we know it’s United. Southwest isn’t serving alcohol on board.
And indeed UA217, the first United flight from Austin to Houston of the day, was delayed 21 minutes by this incident.
A year ago one man nursed a can of Pringles for an entire four hour flight just to see if he could. The airline confirmed that he was fully within his rights.
This is no longer acceptable traveling on U.S. airlines. The rules now say you have to put your mask back on between bites or sips.
- American says,
You can briefly lower or remove your face covering while actively eating, drinking or taking oral medication, but it must be worn between bites and sips.
- United says,
There may be times when you may need to remove your mask in the airport or on the aircraft, such as when briefly eating or drinking. Federal law requires you to immediately put your mask back on between bites and sips.
- Delta says “Prolonged periods of mask removal are not permitted for eating or drinking – masks need to be worn between bites and sips.”
The safe way to eat or drink is to move your mask down below your mouth as you sip or chew, and then place your mask back on – until the next sip or bite.
Many crewmembers will offer space to keep a mask down ‘while eating or drinking’ and you’ll see many passengers who do this. That works… until the flight when it doesn’t. And as a general proposition I assume that if a rule is going to be enforced to the letter at some point, it’ll be enforced that way with me.