The End Of The Mask Mandate Means Passengers Can Be Better Protected On Planes

The federal transportation mask mandate ended two and a half months ago. Airlines quickly lifted their own mask requirements. That means passengers no longer have to wear masks, but may do so if they wish.

  • The masks that were required before, such as cloth and paper masks, didn’t do much to protect the wearer. They might have limited spread somewhat by people who were infected.

  • But people can wear better masks, such as N95 masks, that provide protection to the wearer.

People don’t think clearly about masks. This week I saw people wearing N95 masks outdoors on a boat. They were cloth masks. Masks aren’t a talisman that wards off Covid-19, they are a tool.

While vaccination and boosters provide still-good protection against severe disease, and so does prior infection (especially in combination with vaccination) – and this is what most people care most about – there are still people who should be taking precautions to protect their health. And the end of the mask mandate actually makes it easier to do this.

That’s because when masks were required, they weren’t required so much to protect the wearer but to protect other people from the wearer. That meant masks with valves were not permitted. Valves making breathing in masks easier.

With the end of mask rules, there are no longer mask specifications.

  • You can wear an N95 mask with a valve. You can even wear a P100 mask with a valve which is going to be incredibly protective.

  • And this should not offend other passengers, because if they’re concerned about protecting themselves from you they can wear a highly protective mask, too.

The only challenge is not cabin crew may not have updated their priors. With the end of mask rules, there are no longer standards for which masks are allowed. However flight attendants may not have internalized this. Here’s a woman who reports that a Delta flight attendant wouldn’t allow her to use a mask with a valve, because that used to be the rule and didn’t realize it no longer is.

There are still some limits on how much personal protective equipment you can wear. Generally speaking anything that gets in the way of an evacuation isn’t permittted. At American Airlines face or body tents, personal air purifiers, and ozone generators are not permitted.

Body Pod in Delta First Class, Credit: Under The Weather

The truth is I don’t want to be super close to many other passengers, and this was true long before Covid-19 too. I’ll never forget sitting next to a man with bright red eyes on a United Airlines transcon flight nearly 25 years ago. A couple of days later I had dendritic ulcers in one of my eyes.

If there’s one lesson I wish people would take from the pandemic it’s to stay home when sick. But people aren’t going to do this, so considering personal protection, continuing to wash hands vigorously, and keeping distance from others can make good sense.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I returned from a trip throughout South America. The airlines I flew–Avianca, Aerolinias Argentinas, Aeromexico, Latam all require masking of pax and crew. The countries I visited all required masks in public places, excluding outdoors and places to eat and drink. Although I hate the feeling of wearing a mask (and I am a closet anti-masker), I could not deny the statistics: airline crew not calling in sick due to Covid, flights on time, Covid deaths in the single digits, if any at all.

  2. Anyone still wearing a face diaper is an outright fool. We’re long past the time for you to have figured this out. The entire scam has been exposed.

  3. James N, there are individuals who have medical vulnerabilities that necessitate wearing a mask for reasons beyond COVID. You might want to consider broader reasons.

  4. When Type 1 Herpes re-activates as cold sores, it is contagious. When Type I
    Herpes Simplex re-activates in the eye and causes keratitis, it is not contagious.

  5. CRAZY there’s not bodies lining the concourses in America like all the Covid cultists predicted….. Just a few more shots, just a few more lockdowns, just a few more masks and it’ll all be over. Bahahahaha. Lunatics.

  6. Flying on airplanes these days is playing Russian roulette with your health. People fly while infected with covid and don’t wear masks. 50% of the people I know who have traveled have got covid despite wearing a mask themselves.

  7. Here we go again with ignorant and mindless drivel by “Dr” site host and his sycophants like @James N, despite the pandemic’s grim worldwide statistics:

    Coronavirus Cases: 562,130,605
    Deaths: 6,375,233

    …and counting.

  8. @Dcs

    1.1% death rate and we had government induced mass hysteria.

    Think how bad it would be if the death rate was 5% 20% or 50%. The government would have mass kill offs like they do in Asia with birds

  9. @James N
    Jimmy, I knew you would be here. I see you still haven’t got over yourself being a scientific genius. What’s next for you Monkeypox or maybe going back to Aids?

  10. James N, I had a cousin with a significant medical condition who died of COVID (pre-vaccine). I have two nieces with significant medical conditions who still use masks when flying. All I’m saying is that there’s a difference between the gullible freaked out liberal Democrats (who are often cited) and those who have a true medical reason. And, it would be unfair to criticize those with medical conditions for wearing a mask. (I am not a liberal Democrat.)

  11. Excellent rebuttal, Rog! The fact remains that I’ve been right about everything from the beginning and you’ve offered nothing to refute it.

    @Reno… the article is clearly about Covid and we all know, “The exception that proves the rule”.

  12. It’s fascinating that the uninformed, i.e. DCS, continue to parrot those inflated, obviously fraudulent numbers.

    — James N

    You clearly and surprisingly — considering the stupid comment — can use a computer. Prove the numbers inflated or just can it.

    1.1% death rate and we had government induced mass hysteria.

    — Jjojo

    The death rate seems insignificant when one is not one of the dead…

    Importantly, have you stopped for a second to consider that without the purported “government mass hysteria”, the death rate could have been much higher? I didn’t think so…


  13. Rog, you are absolutely correct. I was mocking a certain type of reader on this blog who will turn the subject of boarding groups into a key issue in the liberal-conservative divide . . . as well as border control policy. Please take my comment as poking fun. Perhaps I need to work on my delivery.

    The article was about individuals choosing to wear a mask for protection. And, let’s say the article was solely focusing on COVID. And, let’s say it’s okay to mock individuals who wear a mask for COVID protection. One comment included, “Anyone still wearing a face diaper is an outright fool.”

    But, not everyone who is wearing a mask is doing it for COVID protection — they’re doing it because they have a medical issue. Even though some might deem my comment as off-topic, does it hurt to throw this into the mix?

  14. Koggerj, I can tell you’re a compassionate and caring human being . . . as well as a scholar and a gentleman. I shall make a donation to the American Cancer Society in your honor.

  15. “Prove the numbers inflated or just can it.”

    Sorry, the ball is in your court. You need to prove the numbers, you’re the one making the assertion. Anyone who has reviewed the data and looked at it objectively knows that government and health “professionals” have greatly inflated the case and death counts. Heck, the PCR, which has been used extensively throughout this scam, is prone to over 80-85% false positives.

    But again, even if those bogus numbers were true, it has nothing to do with whether or not someone wears a face diaper. You’ve committed an obvious straw man.

  16. Sorry, the ball is in your court. You need to prove the numbers, you’re the one making the assertion.

    Fine, I do the research so that wouldn’t have to.

    WorldOmeter have the goods:

    Visit the site and then come back here and apologize. I promise to accept the apology.

    I’ve posted ad nauseam in this space links to reliable studies that have conclusively documented the undeniable benefits of masking. I won’t do it again because the density of your ignorance is such that no amount of objective info can get through and fill the the MAGALand information vacuum.

  17. Gary, look up source control and cringe as to how wrong you are.

    Of course, it’s misinformation from people like you who is enabling yet another COVID-19 wave, crippling airlines due to high personnel absences (people cannot work with fever etc.)

  18. Gary, please. Planes have NEVER been a transmission vector.
    Masks have no material effect on virus transmission, regardless of location.
    That data is all over the place — by city, county, and state.

  19. Dr. Left throws gasoline on the anti-maskers.

    What’s credit card should I get if I really hate masks?

  20. @ DCS. I will not argue the number of deaths world wide. I will contest the total number of deaths as being representative of OTHERWISE HEALTHY individuals without ANY underlying health conditions. I’ve personally lost three friends “due to Covid 19”. All three had pre-existing MAJOR respiratory and/or vital organ illnesses. They were also some of the first to be vaccinated but that’s for a different day.
    But let’s ask the readers: how many know of otherwise HEALTHY AND FIT flight and cabin crewmembers that have been seriously ill or hospitalized with Covid 19 (I’m not counting missing work for quarantine)?
    I’ll start, and I know quite a few after 40 years in airlines . . . Zero . . . and I’ll consider that a Blessing.
    @ Sam. Ha. Ain’t it the truth. I’ll check back on the credit card answer.

  21. Open letter to “James N” it seems your Mother Jones News subscription has expired. You may want to go look into viral load and exponential math. Hope the BA 4 and 5 treat you well.

  22. @ James N

    “The fact remains that I’ve been right about everything from the beginning and you’ve offered nothing to refute it.”

    No, that is wrong, James.

    You have been given the evidence to refute your fallacious statements.

    The fact is that I have repeatedly provided references to the data on this blog site, including the 1,000s of medical / scientific papers on the subject of the effectiveness of masks in the management of viral diseases, notably COVID.

    You have chosen to ignore the evidence provided.

    You have wilfully refused to accept the evidence.

    Your comments and position have no credibility in terms of science and medical research.

    I will repost one article (and I’m frankly sick and tired of covidiots like you posting the same baseless assertions), arguable the most robust study of its kind. This is the summary article in the number one leading science journal (Nature) – you have follow the link to he original research from there:

    I quote from the article:

    “Face masks protect against COVID-19. That’s the conclusion of a gold-standard clinical trial in Bangladesh, which backs up the findings of hundreds of previous observational and laboratory studies.1.

    “Critics of mask mandates have cited the lack of relevant randomized clinical trials, which assign participants at random to either a control group or an intervention group. But the latest finding is based on a randomized trial involving nearly 350,000 people across rural Bangladesh. The study’s authors found that surgical masks — but not cloth masks — reduced transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in villages where the research team distributed face masks and promoted their use.

    “This really should be the end of the debate,” says Ashley Styczynski, an infectious-disease researcher at Stanford University in California and a co-author of the preprint describing the trial. The research “takes things a step further in terms of scientific rigour”, says Deepak Bhatt, a medical researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who has published research on masking.”

    Now James, you have a choice – you can grow up and behave like an adult and rational human being or you can continue to disseminate your baseless claims.

    IMHO it would be preferable to engage in debate supported by evidence rathe than hyperbole and hysteria.

  23. @Jack Johnson

    “Planes have NEVER been a transmission vector.”

    Factually incorrect. There are cases of COVID transmission on aircraft (I have previously posted the references to these on this blog – do I have to do that all over again?!).

    “Masks have no material effect on virus transmission, regardless of location.”

    Factually incorrect. See reference within my post addressing covidiot James N’s baseless assertions o once it passes moderation for the included link.

    “That data is all over the place — by city, county, and state”

    You can source the data and the relevant science / medical papers through the search engine “PubMed”. One suspects that most posters herein either don’t know how to do that or have never bothered to try.

    For example, a search of masks + COVID currently returns 5,446 references.

    I would be amazed if @ Gary has actually read any of them. If he has, he should cite them to support the position adopted in is article.

  24. @James

    CRAZY there’s not bodies lining the concourses in America like all the Covid cultists predicted…”

    And yet if your were to lay down the bodies head to toe of the Americans who’ve already died from COVID they’d stretch the length of Highway I95 from Washington DC to Miami.

  25. @Jjojo

    “1.1% death rate and we had government induced mass hysteria”

    Small problem, mate. The cited mortality rates capture the number of deaths AFTER the application of disease control measures have been put into place. In other words, if there had been no protective measures, or greater or lesser measures, the mortality rate would have been different.

    We can compare jurisdictions where there were differential control measures. During the Alpha and Delta waves of COVID, the mortality rates in the USA (come control measures) was 40 times greater that of Australia (stringent control measures).

    So – just what in your mind does that 1% represent? Are you suggesting that it represents mortality in the case of no control measures or something else?

    Have you thought this through?

  26. @James N

    ” We knew prior to March, 2020 and we still know today, that masks do little to stop the spread of respiratory viruses…[reference to brownstone]…”

    Try to keep up, fella.

    Your Brownstone Institute has set a mandate for itself – something about delusions of freedom triumphing over the sins implicit in disease control. Whatever. You are engaged in a predetermined circuit of never-ending confirmation bias. Talk about “cherry picking”!

    Their list attacking mask studies is an excellent example of fakery.

    Let’s take a look at the Bangladesh study, the one I refer to in my other posts herein (because it is the most comprehensive available with some 350,000 people and better experimental design than any other available study) and how they reported that, shall we?

    Brownstone appear to quote the study in their list and the data ain’t crash hot – masks appear to have little effectiveness. Shock horror. Yay – the Brownstone mob is leading the fight for truth and justice! And covidiots like James N are duly sucked in!

    Problem. No, they don’t actually quote the original study at all. They quote an article that criticises that study. Oops. And the data are selectively misquoted. Thus for example, the 34% effective of mask usage for the over 60s cited in the original study is conveniently ignored. Swept under the carpet, it doesn’t fit the dumb right wing anti mask narrative.

    Unfortunately, your Brownstone reference is a torrid exercise in misrepresentation of the original data.

    So, James, go read the original medical / scientific articles. They haven’t been selectively “cherry picked” to extol somebody’s predeclared position. They haven’t been selectively or incorrectly quoted to support some covidiot’s delusion.

  27. @ One Trippe

    “I will contest the total number of deaths as being representative of OTHERWISE HEALTHY individuals without ANY underlying health conditions.”

    The mortality data are an output of the impacts of the disease on a population. We work with observations of pattern, simplistically and obviously correlations. We may be able to determine causality (noting the correlation and cause are different).

    In the meantime, health policy is obliged to address health outcomes on a community level (not individual level) based on models of the impacts of the disease in a population with varying control parameters.

    Significantly, a “healthy” individual can still impact on a susceptible individual (by refusing to wear a mask or get vaccinated to stymie the spread of a virus which would otherwise spread exponentially).

    “But let’s ask the readers: how many know of otherwise HEALTHY AND FIT flight and cabin crewmembers that have been seriously ill or hospitalized with Covid 19 (I’m not counting missing work for quarantine)?”

    Ironically, (given the context of the above article) for your question to have any relevance you would also need to check whether crew had:

    1) been fully vaccinated and boosted or not
    2) continued to wear masks post 18 April 2022 or not


  28. @ platy. 1) Crews had no choice if they desired to continue employment at airline
    2) Crews had no choice if they desired to continue employment at airline

    regarding exponential spread, suggest you check Fauci’s latest declaration (July 13, 2022) about vaccine. But thanks for the reply . . . even though you didn’t answer the question.

  29. @ OneTrippe

    Questions and enquiry are good…there’s a lot of misinformation and this COVID stuff ain’t over yet!

    The only question you asked related to cabin crew. Taking that question literally, I can’t tell you since I only know one: I cannot say whether she would fit your definition of “healthy and fit”, because (1) you haven’t defined that term and (2) I am not party to her personal private medical history.

    My response was intended to point out that your question is self defeating in a number of ways (apparently that went over your head).

    For example, if masks/ vaccinations are successful in combination at reducing the incidence of serious illness/ mortality from COVID, then you can propose the hypothesis that masked and vaccinated crew members would present with low rates of serious illness / mortality from COVID (relative to a given comparative control group).

    But if you are not careful, you’ll argue yourself into a corner (you’ve put yourself in a position in which you can’t discriminate between the positive benefits in being fit / healthy versus mask / vaccine – you don’t have the relative control groups to determine the interplay of factors).

    Crucially, you can’t separate cause from effect (separate correlation from causality) – because you cannot discriminate which factors are in play by harvesting data from readers about any crew members they think they know about! Scientific enquiry it is not.

    @ DCS has provided you with the gross mortality data, which you have accepted. Within that dataset you will find any number of patterns (in the event that medical authorities have captured individual data on their patients) – mortality apparently correlated with body mass, age, diabetes, be what it may. Nobody is denying that such correlations are discoverable within the data. The real question is which correlations reflect cause rather than incidental pattern because that enables more informed choice and more directed health policy.

    Outwitting a virus is a population scale game with high stakes (severe disease, mortality, long term health impacts) and ancillary social and economic consequences.

    The virus is a moving target since it evolves (but don’t tell the 40% of the US population ossified in their creationist gold delusion).

    So, mate, just what are you expecting to happen here?

    A viral epidemic will tend to exponential growth until it runs out of steam. Some factors will enhance that growth (transmission rate, low levels of immunity in the population, etc) and some will stymie that growth (control measures, immunity in the population, etc). The output of that system is measured in the R number. And that is studied in models, which enable the researchers to predict the impacts of differing combinations of factors.

    When the virus evolves (mutates) we can get lucky (transmission rates go down, ability to cause severe disease / mortality go down) or we can get unlucky (spike protein changes lower benefit or longevity of existing immunity) and we need to booster or adapt our vaccine.

    So what?

    If you are expecting a game based on a set of absolutes (misconceptions such as “masks don’t stop all transmission events therefore masks are useless”, “vaccines are useless because we have to use boosters and adapt the vaccines to match the mutations in the COVID spike protein”, “we only need to worry about unfit and sick people catching COVID”), then you’ll forever fail to grasp the gig! You’re dealing with a complex system (many factors) that us ever changing (dynamic).

    Just what it that doesn’t “gel” for you?

    PS. Sorry you lost your mates to the virus.

  30. @ platy. I’m checking back for answers. Thank you for your posted treatises. You obviously have even more time to waste than I. Actually I did ask about both flight and cabin crews but that’s not important. Although you mention some valid points in all your posts, they lack the brevity to be read by most.
    I only hope that anyone who reads these posts will not wait until they are sick to decide to be healthy.
    Thank you for your condolences.

  31. @ One Trippe

    No worries, buddy. It’s clear that most posters herein have no idea how science works and appear disinclined to make any effort to self educate.

    Tweet-length posts aren’t going to resolve folk’s ignorance on the core concepts.

    Asking dumb (i.e. scientifically naive) questions ain’t gonna prove diddly squat, rather only reinforce the misinformed perceptions.

    Be will, be brilliant, travel safe.

Comments are closed.