Senator Ted Cruz Flying American Airlines Without Wearing A Mask

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was photographed yesterday flying an American Airlines regional jet, without wearing a mask. Brett Snyder calls it out as a flight operated for American by Mesa Airlines based on the beat up seat in the photo.

Naturally the photo is blowing up in social media. Masks are the new culture war, but this time with immediate real world consequences, though the President himself has now worn a mask on multiple occasions.

Cruz is holding a cup of coffee in the photo. And while American Airlines and other U.S. carriers require masks to be worn by passenger, they aren’t required to do so while eating or drinking. Some people take that to extremes nursing a soda for half an hour. In this case, though, Cruz doesn’t appear to be breaking any rules because of his coffee.

However he’s been photographed traveling before without a mask. Last month he waited in “the banjo” old A concourse at Washington’s National airport (home to Southwest, Air Canada and Frontier) with no mask on, though the airport’s rules say that passengers must wear masks inside the terminal.

In May, though, Cruz could clearly be seen wearing a mask (as required by the business) while getting a haircut at the Texas salon that defied the governor’s lock down order.

Cruz has previously had to self-quarantine after coming into contact with multiple people who tested positive for Covid-19.

(HT: @BenPHL)

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. […] According to an internal memo the airline is onto the tricks customers are using to pretend to comply with the mask requirement, defining that what has to be placed over “an individual’s nose and mouth” is “a well-secured cloth or mask.” And taking off a mask “to eat, drink, or take medicine” should be “brief, and Customers should put their face covering back on as soon as possible.” (They’re looking at you, Ted Cruz.) […]


  1. I fail to see where this is news or noteworthy. Clickbait.

    People in bars and restaurants are not wearing masks in between bites of food or sips of drinks and no one was doing so in the Admirals Club the other day either.

    No one is demanding that meals be shoveled in non-stop or beverages to be chugged.

  2. Seems like more braying from the party of the jackass. Second photo appears to show a mask on the seat. This is a close in shot so we cannot tell what else is on that seat – food? coffee?
    Perhaps those of the party of the jackass can explain why BLM called so many blacks (at high risk for COVID-19) and young people to the streets where there are so many photos of no social distancing or people wearing masks?. While the protests did not cause a rise in overall cases, there was a significant rise within weeks of cases among the demographic protesting.

  3. And literally nobody is surprised as this is the type of stuff Texans like myself expect of this political hack. Hopefully he was not shedding coronavirus asymptotically/pre-symptomatically to the vulnerable—not that he’d care evidently. He is a embarrassment.

  4. Ron said, ‘No one is demanding that meals be shoveled in non-stop or beverages to be chugged.’

    Actually, Gary appears to be doing exactly that-this is not the first time Gary has made the comment about ‘nursing’ a drink; I doubt I’m the only one who nurses water throughout the entire flight, many times helped along by FA’s who come by & snatch it up to refill it as soon as it hits the 1/2 way point.

    Further, most directives I’ve seen pertaining to mask wearing in public also carry the caveat of ‘when not able to properly social distance’, so if the Senator was sitting by himself, w/no one w/in the magical 6 foot range (which is hard to tell from the picture posted), then by most public health directives, no need to wear the mask.

    I agree w/others-I’m no fan of Senator Cruz, but this post wasn’t necessary, Gary.

  5. Actually, as an elected leader the Senator’s words and actions are important and newsworthy.

    And although he might view himself as invincible owing to his taxpayer funded, Platinum Health Insurance that affords him priority access to the best doctors at the best hospitals and the best equipment (including ventilators) that most of us mere mortals cannot be assured of, the fact remains that this exceptionally arrogant and selfish act puts others’ lives in danger, and as a prominent public official he should be encouraging attitudes and behaviors that promotes the health and well being of everyone to the maximum extent possible.

    Further, if American Airlines requires that ALL passengers wear face masks, then they should NOT be making any exceptions for anyone regardless of their wealth or power.


    Wearing a mask and social distancing are still the ONLY provably effective methods to reduce transmission, illness and death of Covid19.

    Anyone who thinks otherwise is living a lie – and a very dangerous lie at that.

    Don’t want to wear a mask?

    Then stay home.

    Otherwise, just as we’d prosecute someone for having unsafe sex and exposing another person to HIV because of the potential life changing impact that disease has if one is infected as a result of being infected by another person who failed to undertake the time and effort to use protection, so too, should we not just hold in contempt, but also hold those who selfishly and arrogantly put others’ at elevated risk of contracting a disease that has now caused the deaths of 3 friends; 2 of my partner’s relatives; and 3 relatives (including a nurse in her 30’s with no underlying conditions widely reported in the news) of one of our closest friends.

    And those are the people we know who died from Covid19.

    We also know several people who were fortunate enough to recover after becoming infected, but “recovering” is a bit misleading for some, as they’re still reporting severe, life changing, impacts more than 3 months after the worst presenting symptoms abated.

    So again, anyone who thinks this is a joke, or an “hoax” is only kidding themselves.

    People are dying.

    Good people at that.

    Their friendship and love is irreplaceable; their loss immeasurable.

    Perhaps if others experienced the pain and loss as many of us in New York City (and elsewhere since not everyone referenced in this post lives/lived in NYC) they’d understand just how real the impacts of Covid19 are – and that NO ONE regardless of age, wealth, power or privilege enjoys a special immunity or exemption from becoming infected and then progressing to some of the most debilitating, life changing impacts up to and including death, from this horrible disease.

    Further, for those who believe that the economic cost of aggressively implementing the proven methods of reducing transmission of Covid19 are too great, and that the trade-off of needless, otherwise preventable deaths for tens, or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are guaranteed to be your loved ones, or even yourselves, if you would just take an hour or two to research the data from countries that have much lower rates of infection, and mortality rates that are a FRACTION of ours here in the USA (or of course, Brazil and Russia – if only we were as ashamed as we should be to be as ‘successful at abject failure’ during a pandemic as those 2 dismally performing countries as we otherwise would be…), and how those countries are now able to more successfully open up their economies with effective and efficiently managed testing and contact tracing, it will be clear that our nation’s economy is best served by using the long ago proven best methods to reduce transmission of deadly diseases when global pandemics occur.

    It really isn’t rocket science.

    I mean seriously, given the many hardships in life that people around the world routinely face even when there isn’t a pandemic, or the impacts that so many other life changing events such as a car accident that results in permanent paralysis from the waist of neck down; slipping on a patch of ice that results in cracking one’s skull; the array of cancers that require debilitating chemotherapy; MS; Lou Gherig’s disease (ALS); or starvation/hunger for many, even in our own cities and towns, etc., how is wearing a face mask such an hardship that some, like Senator Cruz, yet still refuse to do so?

    If so, why not still believe the world is flat?

    Or that leaches cure diseases – and drinking bleach or inserting an UV light emitting device into one’s body cavity (as someone suggested on national tv back in May) will cure Covid19?

    Finally, whatever happened to good, old fashioned, common sense that says “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?

    Wearing face masks and practicing social distancing are still the ONLY proven effective methods to reduce transmission, sickness or even death from Covid19.

    The facts don’t lie – unlike those who yet still tell themselves ridiculous lies that it’s all just an “hoax” and refuse to accept the truth even if it’s literally staring them in their face and at the tip of their nose.

    Anyhow, if anything, with air travel requiring close proximity to some so wantonly endangering the health and wellness of others and their families/loved ones aboard aircraft as the Senator is doing; and with ventilation aboard aircraft parked at the gate using Pre-Conditioned Air (PCA) units NOT nearly as good as the exceptional air quality touted by airlines and others in their ‘your safety comes first’ marketing campaigns touting rapid air refresh rates and HEPA filtration that’s comparable to hospital surgical suites (something IATA confirmed this past Friday, July 10th, in a reply posted on my LinkedIn page), flyers need to include the reality that when they’re boarding, in their seat waiting to depart, or patiently waiting to deplane after landing, if they’re anywhere near someone like Senator Cruz who refuses to wear a face mask when flying, then they’re at risk of being in an enclosed tube, where the ventilation is NOT nearly as robust as airlines are promising in their messaging (which applies ONLY during taxiing and inflight), and instead is more akin to garden variety commercial grade HVAC systems (btw, PCA unit filtration is rated “G4”, which is substantially lower grade than HEPA grade filtration).

    Just sayin’ ⚠️

  6. The senator is drinking coffee, and that exempts him from the policy. Look, everyone’s deep-seeded hate for this side of the political aisle is pretty shocking, and the lengths the media will go to smear them is even more alarming. The everyday American public have skepticism on high alert when all they see is pettiness such as this.

    Articles like this damage the credibility of the side of the political aisle of which the author is obviously a part. You have to ask yourself, if the author’s best use of his time was writing this piece, then is his services really essential during this challenging time? It may be better for everyone to promote him into another role outside of this publication.

  7. Not a Cruze fan but he is drinking coffee in each scene, so no make required while eating and drinking. This is were the left is acting just like the right. Enough already!

  8. Wow! Howard Miller, you wrote a lot of words.
    You mention, “…just as we’d prosecute someone for having unsafe sex and exposing another person to HIV…” that has been minimized from felony (6-8 years) to misdemeanor (up to 6 months) here in California. Why? Because under the idea of consensual activities between 2 adults, the individual is ultimately responsible for their own actions. Yes, one must decide for oneself when and how to proceed with ones own activities.

    Of course humans are by nature a rebellious bunch, you will always fail when you place your expectations on others. Rather than feigning upset over the actions of others, whom we have no control, how about we just focus on the things within our control. Yes, just like those consensual activities between 2 adults, you have control of your mask and where you go. If you’re so worried about asymptomatic transmission, then you must take appropriate steps for yourself. If that means choosing not to go out among others, so be it. If you choose to go out and you see others sans mask, keep clear. If you choose to maintain close contact, don’t BPM (Bitch Piss & Moan) about your decision.

    I have an illness, Systemic Lupus Erythematosis, and take biologic disease modifying drugs (TNF-inhibitors, immunosuppressants) that kill my immune system. I’m not in any way expecting people to modify their behaviours on my account. To the contrary, I step up my precautionary measures. I am pleased to see them taking precautionary measures for their health, not mine.

    Similar to the HIV exposure regulation mentioned at the outset; people want absolution of accountability and responsibility. You don’t have to jump in that bed/backseat/wherever, just say no! Same with CoVID-19, you don’t have to bear near people nor remain in a situation where you feel uncomfortable. Your life, your choice right?

    At the end of the day we’re responsible only to ourselves and our family. As Michelle Pfeiffer’s character said in Dangerous Minds, “Do you have a choice to get on that bus!”

    Just my $0.02

  9. FYI pretty sure Cruz tested positive for COVID and recovered so not a threat (based on most scientific evidence) to infect anyone. Also in terminal he appears to be 6 feet away from anyone which granted (at that time) an exemption from wearing the mask and also, as noted above by numerous others, he is drinking coffee both times.

    Political clickbait – Gary I am really disappointed in you! SMH

  10. @Howard Miller Sounds like you just like to hang out with a bunch of sickly people to have so many die around you. It’s almost like Hillary with all of those weird suicides and death by private planes…..

  11. @AC, sorry to inform you, but there is no good scientific evidence confirming that immunity is conferred with a previous infection. It is _assumed_ to occur, but there are indeed examples of people who have been reinfected with covid-19 after having gotten it previously. At first this was rightfully dismissed as likely to be a testing issue, but there are now several public examples of people who have gotten covid-19, tested negative at least 2x, gone weeks without any symptoms (indicating total recovery), and who have now started having symptoms and positive tests.

    We simply do not know if second, third, etc. infections are possible or not. Many viral diseases do seem to lead to immunity. Others do not. Dengue fever, for example, tends to not create natural immunity and is actually with the second infection.

  12. Ugg… last sentence should be: Dengue fever, for example, tends to not create natural immunity and is actually *worse* with the second infection.

  13. “That Guy”,

    If only it was that simple to completely avoid being exposed to others who selfishly, arrogantly or mindlessly refuse to wear masks that then put others’ at substantially higher risk of becoming infected by Covid19 laden droplets and/or aerosols as a consequence of their dangerous, and even life threatening, actions.

    However, for those who live in apartment buildings, and whom therefore must transit hallways, ride elevators, and enter/exit via lobbies that are often very busy with delivery people, other tenants and their guests, and for whom private cars, SUVs or minivans are not an option, therefore requiring close proximity to dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands of strangers as we go about meeting our ordinary daily needs such as walking our dogs, shopping for those groceries that delivery services or Instacart don’t necessarily do as well at consistently fulfilling such as fresh eggs, fish or providing the freshest bread instead of fobbing off bread (or other products) just before their sell by dates (etc.) and work/professional obligations now that quarantining restrictions have been eased, our safety, health & wellness is only as good as the air we share with others who pass through the hallways, ride the elevators, or who stand beside us as we wait for traffic lights to change to cross streets, or who stand in line around us in the already much smaller grocery stores that have much narrower aisles than those gigantic, spacious stores often found outside of NYC and other crowded cities.

    As to the example of citing punishments for those who fail have HIV who fail to use protection, let’s be clear that this is NOT a reflection on anything other than society having the legitimate right to protect the health and safety of everyone.

    Sure, in the end, it’s up to one to look after themselves and not necessarily rely on the state to do that for them.

    But, just as we’ve decided as a society to enact bans on smoking in public places (including while aboard aircraft) because of the scientifically proven/medically documented risks posed to others by exposure to second hand smoke, so too, do those who are concerned for their own health, safety and well being, and for their family members/other loved ones (some of whom for no fault of their own are at elevated risk of death if they become sick with Covid19 due to say, asthma or Cystic Fibrosis, neither of which they had any say in having to deal with in their own lives as those are largely hereditary/genetic conditions [or socio-economic for some instances of asthma]) deserve similar state sponsored protections against being put in harms’ way by selfish. inconsiderate jerks who (womp, womp) find putting a face mask on to be “such a terrible and unreasonable inconvenience.”

    Good grief!

    Have we gone stark raving mad?!?!

    It’s just a freakin’ face mask – that just so happens to have more than proven its weight in gold in saving lives in places around the world that have substantially lower transmission/infection rates, not to mention mortality rates a fraction – yes, a FRACTION [imagine that!] – of our “3rd world” rate that better resembles the “Banana Republic” we’ve become than the world’s most affluent and technologically advanced country we like to think we are – but alas, when compared to many countries around the world, most of which are not nearly as “rich” and certainly not nearly as “powerful”, our supposedly “richest and best country” in history of humanity not only isn’t even close to being in the top tier, or even fair to middling, but to our shame, embarrassment and pity, is among the worst at confronting this global pandemic.

    Sure, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and Democratic politicians share in the blame, too, for decades of neglect and denial, but our country’s horrific results and it’s acceptance of a leader who thinks they know more about science than trained scientists, more about medicine than properly trained doctors, and who insists this pandemic will just magically disappear (leaving out the part about ingesting bleach or inserting an UV emitting device into one’s body cavity, of course…since, well, that alone should – and in history books WILL – speak for itself as a testament to failed leadership by any objective measure) if it was any other person would’ve long ago been laughed out of the White House for how outrageously dangerous and incompetent these fantastical proclamations are.

    Because they are.

    You know it. I know it. And when we’re being honest, all but the dimmest light bulbs among us know it, too.

    How so many are finding our bottom dwelling performance in addressing a public health crisis perfectly acceptable is a mystery to me.

    And I’m sorry – NOT sorry – someone else’s refusal to wear a face mask in public (properly, too, since exposed noses and “chin guards” are a waste of time) is like wearing a brightly lit neon/LED sign proclaiming to the world “yeah, I’m a total selfish, LOSER who doesn’t give a crap if anyone else gets sick after I coughed or sneezed around them” because – womp, womp, I couldn’t be bothered wearing a face mask.

    Cry me a freakin’ river.

  14. Just to be clear, he’s not eating or drinking. It takes about 2 seconds to pull down a mask and take a sip.

    What he IS doing is making the statement that “rules don’t apply to me.”

  15. Looking for comments to show your advertisers and ratings? You don’t care if the protesters/rioters wear a mask, I’m sure their are negative stories about flights with a Democrat politician, Bernie Sanders for example? An Antifa protester comes to mind. But you feature a Republican Senator drinking coffee? Stop now with the partisan “political click batch” or I’ll stop reading & supporting your blog!

  16. NO! I will not wear a mask and I will not have my freedoms taken from me. If you are so afraid of getting sick then wear a mask and stay home. Wearing a mask is dangerous to your health. It raises the carbon dioxide to a dangerous to a level that is considered dangerous by OSHA and lowers oxygen to a level that is considered dangerous by OSHA. Wake up people. You are giving away your God given freedoms for nothing!

  17. I think, contrary to several right wingers who contributed here, there are a few responsible, caring, people on the right who will wear a mask even though it is a bit uncomfortable. And there are the idiots who think businesses do not have the right to deny entry to people who don’t wear a mask.

  18. Hey, believe it not there are now masks that have a slit to insert a straw. The mask comes with a kit that includes a metal straw with a bent tip and cleaning brush. I purchased one. Why take chances? Come on Teddy Cruz, let’s try to set an example, and a good one for once!

  19. No, my partner’s 2 relatives who passed away from Covid19 lived overseas.

    And as noted, one of the 3 people referenced as relatives of our close friend, is a nurse who worked in the ER of an hospital in one of the nation’s largest cities.

    As to our other friends, they live (those who survived the most acute, life threatening symptoms) or lived in major cities like NYC, where many of us must use the same hallways, elevators and lobbies as hundreds, or even thousands, of others, every day – or for whom private vehicles are not at our disposal to get around town, or private yards for exercise or other recreation, walking our dogs, or simply getting sunshine and fresh air.

    So, it’s not so much that I’m around sickly people, as much as it’s I, and many of the people I know, live in places like NYC where we’re in densely packed spaces that requires being in close contact with others for virtually everything done outside of own homes – even something as basic as walking our dogs requires a degree of preparation and upon returning following up from having been outside of our “bubbles” that’s onerous and “inconvenient”.

    But, it is what it is – and something like a pandemic is just something that has to be endured no matter how “inconvenient” it may be until it passes.

    And trust me, if our country continues on the trajectory it’s currently on, by this time next year, I’ll hardly be among those to have lost as many friends and loved ones as I have – which right now is a bit of a statistical outlier.

    That’s just an inconvenient truth so many seem to insist on experiencing first hand – that Covid19 is NOT an hoax or that if we put our minds to it and came together as a nation, we could – and should’ve already, but tragically haven’t – be among those nations with the BEST outcomes in confronting this pandemic, instead of being among the absolute worst as we are right now.

    Yeah, I know all those faceless, other people, who are “just numbers” among otherwise impersonal daily statistics chronically the latest cases, or those who succumbed to Covid19 all seems so unreal as long as it’s happening to people we don’t know or care about.

    But, with places like Florida now experiencing new cases that even exceeds New York during its darkest days which is when the 3 friends I knew passed away, sadly it won’t be long before others find out as I did when cases in NYC were still increasing exponentially just how serious and real Covid19 actually is.

    Mind you, I don’t wish this pain and hardship on anyone.

    But, the misery is real for those fortunate enough to survive the worst, or even life threatening symptoms.

    And unless one has experienced the unbearable (and unforgettable) sadness of mourning the passing of several people at once as my partner, our close friend, and I have in recent months, they cannot possibly understand how painful, and life changing this pandemic truly is.

    If anything, I only wish that those who seem to trivialize Covid19 would just take the experts, or those laypeople like myself who have experienced the grief and sadness of losing loved ones to this horrible disease, at their/our word this this is real…very, very, very real, and that they, too, are every bit at risk of becoming sick or seeing loved ones become sick if we don’t all pull together and make it our mission to defeat this disease before it defeats us as a country.

    Folks, this is a public health crisis – nothing more and nothing less.

    It should NOT be sucked into a toxic rabbit hole/sewer as some yet still insist on doing.

    The world is watching – and we sure are failing miserably when compared to a great many places.

    How sad is that?

  20. @Johnny,

    RE: “Just to be clear, he’s not eating or drinking. It takes about 2 seconds to pull down a mask and take a sip.

    What he IS doing is making the statement that “rules don’t apply to me.””

    I agree – your comment is *SPOT ON!*

  21. @Anjila,

    Can you cite any credible, peer reviewed, scientific research in support of your claim that wearing a face mask is dangerous to ones’ health?

    That would be helpful towards allowing others to gain a better understanding of those who share your point of view on this subject.


  22. @Anjila, it’s actually extremely contrary to evidence to say that masks are more harmful. Hypercapnia is a) very rare in studies done on mask wearing pre-covid-19 even for N95 masks and b) much more temporary than a viral infection that does significant damage to your lungs and potentially organs if you’re unlucky enough to have the clotting issues that many covid patients have.

    Also, you sound like someone who’s arguing against banning cigarette smoking in restaurants. It’s exactly analogous. The mask’s purpose is to prevent the viral equivalent of second-hand smoke. Your “freedom” extends exactly as far as the point at which it goes against someone else’s freedom. So no, you don’t have a right to spread virus to people who are also in public places.

  23. Senator Ted Cruz Flying American Airlines Without Wearing A Mask
    by Gary Leff on July 13, 2020

    Should say by Gary Left as in mire click bait sensationalism by the left wing. This type of reporting certainly doesn’t make me want to vote Democratic in the next election.

  24. If you’re going to stretch your coffee to last for 45 minutes, it means you’re probably only taking a sip every five or six minutes. Wear the freaking mask during those long periods of time between sips!

  25. @CMorgan writes: “This type of reporting certainly doesn’t make me want to vote Democratic in the next election.”

    Don’t worry, @CMorgan, those of us who have followed this blog already know your political persuasion, and we know that there has never been a snowball’s chance in Texas that you would vote Democratic. @Gary speaks the truth when he says he has no interest in influencing your vote, because he knows that your mind was made up long ago.

  26. Mask shaming a guy for drinking coffee. Gary must be the guy who goes out to a restaurant and puts his mask on between every bite and drink. Stop trying to influence everyone with your left wing BS.

  27. @ Howard Miller. Dude, 0834? Decaf! More words doesn’t mean more information but simply more words. (However, I really have no idea what you wrote as when I see your authored diatribe essays I page I skip it. I appreciate brevity.)

  28. (1) There’s no context given about how long the mask was off…so I’m with everyone else saying that this is clickbait.
    (2) As to the incident in the airport…the photo is zoomed in enough that I cannot help but wonder if this is a “form over function” complaint (that is to say that even stipulating the general utility of masks, requiring that they be worn even when nobody else is around [e.g. when nobody not with one’s party is within about ten feet] is ridiculous*). I’m seeing scads of empty seats, and IIRC the medical guidance generally states “when social distancing isn’t possible”…which by necessity implies, to my read, that rules requiring masks when distancing is effectively being managed are functionally there for the ease of general enforcement rather than their actual utility (the best comparison I can think of is the 55 MPH speed limit, which while it had an intended utility in terms of gas consumption was also far outstripped by attempts to enforce it in cases where the safety benefit was non-obvious).

    *I’m speaking from experience here, but when the only two people in a room on one side of a plexiglass screen are my brother and I and we’re two “dots” away from the screen (so, somewhere in the ballpark of 8-10 feet back) and we’re still being nagged by someone way behind the screen (so they probably have 10-12 feet of distance *and a near complete physical barrier in the way*) over this, my patience gets thin. Ditto when we’re ordered to distance from one another despite (1) walking through the door together and (2) very obviously being in the same party and talking to one another. This is relevant to the Cruz pic insofar as every other seat visible is empty and there’s a case that the photographer only nipped into his “bubble” to take the pic or got an apparently close picture by zooming in.

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