The Mask Mandate Ended. Passengers Started Behaving On Board.

The federal transportation mask mandate was vacated and unruly passenger incidents immediately fell. That’s great news for airline crew safety. It’s great news for passengers trying to get to their destinations on time. And it’s great for airline bottom lines since it means fewer diversions and delayed passengers to reaccommodate.

A week after a federal judge in Florida struck down a government mask mandate on public transportation, the number of unruly air passenger incidents reached its lowest level since 2020, according to data the Federal Aviation Administration released on Wednesday.

The agency reported 1.9 incidents per 10,000 flights during the week ending April 24, down from 4.4 incidents per 10,000 flights a week earlier.

N.B. when the mask mandate ended American Airlines started serving alcohol in coach again. So unruly passenger incidents dropped as booze began to flow.

By the way TSA reports a 50% increase in Covid cases among its staff ‘since the mask mandate was lifted.’ That makes it sound as though passengers taking off masks (and TSA screeners taking off masks!) is causing the infections, which is exactly what I told you to expect as the narrative.

Instead cases started rising nationally a week and a half before the mask mandate was vacated and have continuing to rise. The seven-day moving average of reported infections is up 79% nationally since April 18. That’s not because of the end of the requirement for passengers to wear (cloth) masks in airports and on planes.

The good news is that boosters still work to protect against bad outcomes. And Paxlovid is basically a cure, though very few people take it. On the other hand we make Paxlovid too hard to get and the FDA pretends this is no longer a crisis. Instead of waiting weeks to decide which strain we want to vaccinate against in the fall, when it’ll be too late to actually change strains, we should be manufacturing all candidates at-risk.

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. To quote the clowns rioting against the Supreme Court. “My Body, My Choice”.

  2. Correlation, my old friend! I must say, you look just like causation!

  3. Actually, Paxlovid doesn’t cure covid. All it does is reduce the viral load so a person’s own immune system can fight it. And currently, a percentage of people who take it, it works for up to 10 days then there’s the “rebound effect” where covid comes back worse than how it was in the first 5 days. So, it’s not a miracle drug, and the experts are looking for a nasal spray to hopefully be more effective.

  4. It is mind-numbing that some of the airline execs that were so quick to ban and prosecute poorly behaving passengers didn’t realize how much masks were responsible for not only creating a hostile atmosphere but also scaring away the business passengers that offset the low-fare leisure passengers that appeared to be responsible for so many of the passenger disruption incidents.

  5. @alan, when a woman’s pregnancy can infect me with a baby in my womb maybe the court would feel differently? Seeing as how America’s can’t even wear a piece of cloth over their mouth and nose to protect others I seriously doubt many in this country are actually pro life. Just a bunch of virtue signaling.

  6. @Gary: Just reading @Tim Dunn’s comment should give you a clue how stupid it is to tie masks to the behavior of the passengers. One day after an idiot opens an Emergency Exit and walks out on a wing. This one of your most irresponsible pieces.

  7. Taking away cars would also eliminate road rage………and? idiots gonna be idiots no matter what.

  8. Ray
    there were people that did stupid things before masks and will continue to do stupid things.
    Gary loves to highlight the off the wall stupidity that happens in air transportation but, with a couple million passengers flying by air just in the US per day, people that pop emergency exits are very rare.

    The number of bad passenger incidents because of masks was much higher and the airline execs finally realized it; that is why they finally pushed to get rid of them. Flight attendants and gate agents were tired of the unnecessary confrontation. Alcohol had nothing to do with the increase in bad passenger behavior and probably also contributed to it.
    In case you are new to the human race, humans have an incredible ability to fail to realize the real reason for problems and then blame everyone and everything else when they get it wrong.

    With violence related to Roe v Wade certain to increase (it will show up in aviation), mask issues might not even be covered much but the FAA will still track passenger violence and I assure you that it will go down.

  9. Ray
    OMAAT has a story on the same topic but they include a graph that comes from FAA data showing the decrease in passenger misbehavior issues.
    Since Gary loves to edit his articles, hopefully he will obtain and embed that FAA chart.

  10. Remember that 70% of passenger disturbance reports were mask-related to begin with. Highlighting the non-mask ones just says that ‘not all passenger issues were masks’ which we know (indeed, ending the mask mandate didn’t zero out disturbances).

  11. correct, Gary,
    but people do stupid things like opening exit doors regardless of what airline employees do.
    If airline employees have to police behavior rather than do routine safety tasks, they get sucked into the problem.
    Airline execs were tired of their own employees getting their teeth knocked out and being cursed out and finally realized that they had to act to keep their own employees on the job even as passenger demand recovered.
    Note that passenger misbehavior decreased (looking at the FAA graph) even before the mask mandate ended. After two years, most people figured out how to work w/ the system even if they didn’t like it; it was always a fringe few but they were less likely to act out if there were alot more well-behaved people around them.
    Unlike attacking comedians on stage, physically attacking a crew member will get you prosecuted and most people got that message.

  12. @Ray
    I agree that perhaps it is too early to connect the demise of the mask mandate with a marked decrease in on board behavior issues as an cause and effect state, but a review of so many behavior instances certainly indicates a strong correlation. The belief that a loosely worn piece of cloth is going to protect anyone is laughable. A proper mask, like an N/K 95 would have made sense but anything else was pure virtue signaling. Many people realized that and being forced to comply with an ineffective mask mandate created a hostile environment. As a health professional I used to have a great deal of respect for the CDC but sadly see them as an ineffective group of political hacks.

  13. I believe the mask mandate for public transportation will come back within the next couple to few weeks, given the CDC just reissued a guideline on wearing them and the overall freakout coming back over rising cases, unfortunately!

    Have upcoming travel to Europe end of this month, really hope it doesnt come back by then

  14. Complete BS, the fact is Americans are a bunch of wannabe tough guys so buying into the mask made me do it is pathetic. If the wearing of a mask raised your anger, you have serious issues. The country loves to “mask” their pathetic behavior with lame excuse. “We have a Constitutional right to carry guns” because of some lunatic rehash that your Founders meant it in today’s world is complete lunacy. You going to be invaded soon? The concept of a Supreme Court nomination and Congressional Q&A session is a joke as well. If the job is to rule on Constitutionality of Laws, you wouldn’t be able to override another Supreme Court decision. So stop the charade of the new candidate will politicize the court comments when that is what the basis of the court is: change based on political association and nothing to do with law or the Constitution. The US continues to slide into the shithole.

  15. People raging against masks is lower when they don’t have to wear masks. Truly groundbreaking.

    “So unruly passenger incidents dropped as booze began to flow” as if every other US airline wasn’t already serving, and passengers weren’t getting more drunk in airports than on the planes themselves (which is something this blog has admitted).

  16. I think your headline says a lot about the people who were acting like such raving lunatics that actual diversions resulted. Now they don’t have to act like grownups so everything is good? Charming.

  17. LMAO !! really that got all that data in a months time ??? PS some dickhead just opened an OWE the other day.

  18. @Allen

    Ok, so 4 hour wearing mask – unacceptable, with “my body my choice”.

    But government forced pregnancy for 9 months, with some states proposing legislation to prevent pregnant women from traveling out-of-state… clowns?

    Everyone is pro life… only some are government enforced forced birth.

  19. I never understood why it was only the USA airlines that had the amount of unruly passengers. I never heard cases of this on Singapore, Emirates, Air India, Qantas.

  20. I am just astonished that wearing a mask for hours would make people crabby and prone to horrible behaviour. From the get-go, masks should have been available to people who want to wear them. We flew home from China in November 2019, after an overnight in Wuhan. I caught a ‘bad cold’. It lasted about ten days, like bad colds do. But the politicians and bureaucrats could not pass up this wonderful opportunity to scare Americans into thinking we’re all gonna die any minute. Probably in the street, because hospital ICUs were full of sick people with underlying health issues who caught the virus. Our politicians just wanted to see if Americans would do what we’re told. And it worked, isn’t that astonishing? And it pissed people off big time. Ordinary people became celebrities like that jerk Fauci ,who should be home in a rocking chair. It was obvious what was going on. Just a big power play, an experiment in human behaviour. When ‘they’ started explaining melees on airplanes were caused by alcohol, I hoped that people would wake up. Nope, they bought into the gaslighting.

    Flying used to be something I anticipated with enthusiasm. I’ve played the mileage game well over the years, so I’m usually sitting up front. I’ve enjoyed the chats with FAs, I’ve enjoyed the comfort of reclining my seat for a little nap. I’ve enjoyed getting work done on my laptop without interference. Sometimes I’ve even enjoyed the food.

    Put a mask on me, I become instantly crabby. Anywhere, everywhere. Why? Because I don’t want to wear a mask. Why should I be punished for this normal reaction to political pressure without anything behind it? I’ve lost two years of my life, I have thousands of dollars tied up in airline credits. I’m crabby on the way to the airport and it doesn’t improve until I get rid of the damn mask at my destination. I’ve taken 4 flights in two years, two of them with an FA who loved repeating ‘put the mask over your nose’. I’m not the slightest bit surprised that people became violent on airplanes and in airports. I’d like to think it’s over, but it’s hard to believe that they’ll now leave us alone to govern our own lives. I’m waiting, and I’m not happy about not having any hope for a decent future. I admit that I laugh every time I read some breaking news like ‘people are behaving better now that they are maskless’. How stupid are we?

  21. “We have a Constitutional right to carry guns”…

    The disingenuous statement that we seem incapable of putting out of its misery.

  22. Felicia,
    it is probably because you don’t read media from other countries. It happens elsewhere even if not to the same degree; the US is the largest travel market in the world.
    And Americans are big time individuals. don’t forget that when you sit in a drive through or with your car running as you sit for 20 minutes in the car pool lane at school. Those kinds of things don’t happen elsewhere or not to anywhere near the same degree as they do in the “good old” US of A

  23. @Zebraitis

    Killing babies is wrong. It’s sad the government needs to actually enforce that concept.

  24. @Ray – “If the job is to rule on Constitutionality of Laws, you wouldn’t be able to override another Supreme Court decision.”

    By that rationale, Dred Scott would still be the law of the land. Nice to see that you think black people should still be property of white people.

  25. Alcohol has both a stimulant and sedating effect in humans. But maybe it’s neither the alcohol nor the masks that made a difference with airline and airport conflicts as much as other things. Perhaps the easing up on mask use and on alcohol prohibition made for less polarization and the benefits that follow from that in this regard.

    Keep in mind that the worst annual increase in recorded US homicides happened in the US during the Trump Administration, with an awful
    jump between 2019 and 2020. So maybe a Biden Administration is better for law and order than Trump and thus the awful increases in rates of violence from and following from the Trump Administration are finally beginning to subside for more secular reasons than a mask mandate elimination.

    While there was a mask mandate for my flights within the Nordic countries, there seemed to be no such US-style and US-level drama at airports and planes. Perhaps the driver of the problems was not a difference in a mask mandate but was the passenger and crew mix being problematic by (bad) nurture as Trump infected America with his obnoxious and violence-supporting disposition.

  26. @GUWonder
    That’s a lot coming from someone who supports the party of child grooming and infantcide.

  27. Brian L/Lboy doesn’t care to protect the voting rights of the US’s “black” and “brown” citizens, and here he wants us to pretend as if Dred Scott is being supported by people who don’t support it.

    His disposition is telling when he said: “ Nice to see that you think black people should still be property of white people.”. It’s “nice” in his head because he’s about disempowering those ethnic minority groups
    which he believes have stood in the way of his Lord Trump.

  28. koggerj, I don’t support a party. I support principles which I value; and sometimes it means choosing the lesser evil. There is nothing major party-line about it, other than the Trumpublicans don’t get my vote.

  29. @koggerj – Why do you think that he’s a follower of Matt Gaetz? Or ol’ whatsisname from NC with his human trafficking sex orgies? You can look up yourself the abortions untold Republicans have caused through their infidelities. While I’m glad you’re calling these hypocritical Republicans out, these people absolutely don’t want genetic proof of their infidelities walking around.

  30. “…and sometimes it means choosing the lesser evil.”

    Which means you’re still choosing “evil”.

  31. Ray obviously never took a statistics class in college. It’s quite apparent that the mask mandate ending, directly corresponded with a decline in disruptive passenger incidents. Not sure where you get off saying the OP was irresponsible?

  32. @Huey Judy-
    I wonder if it’s the masks that caused the behavior or the spoiled nature of people. “You can’t tell ME what to do!” We live in a spoiled country.

    @Tim Dunn-
    I focus only on the BBC and I never saw any insanity on airlines outside of the US, and certainly if there were any, it was minor compared to the US.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love this country and the benefits we have, but I do believe/agree the “waiting in the drive-thru” is a luxury that has spoiled many Americans.

    If you live in a house, a city or a country where all you have to do is blink and what you want ends up in your lap, it’s going to be difficult when you are told “no”.

  33. And of course our Democratic operative GU Wonder had to get in an anti Trump comment even though the post has nothing to do with the Former President.

  34. @GUwonder

    Please explain how abortion is the lessor evil?

    I think you can only do this if you define an unborn child as not-human and so not deserving of the protections afforded to every person.

  35. @Felicia

    It doesn’t happen frequently on other airlines. The problem is unfortunately that more people from the USA think they are entitled on everything. I specifically never get a USA/UK/CANADA airline to try to avoid those people. They’re the same way when they visit other countries, total embarrassment. Talk loud and obnoxious in restaurants. And refuse to follow local rules. That’s what I see when I travel.

  36. James N,

    You’re wrong again, for “good” is a lesser “evil” than something more evil than “good”. 😉

  37. Cmorgan,

    Plenty of conflicts on the flights and airports in the US have been a product of Trump supporters acting out on their TRumpublican beliefs and others acting out against Trumpublicans.

    And given Trump’s support for anti-American insurrectionists storming the Capitol and the other massive “law and order” failings during the Trump Presidency, it would require a willful suspension of disbelief to think Trumpublicanism wasn’t a factor in the conflicts that led to delays/diversions or even violence on US flights and at US airports during this pandemic. Violence got worse because of Trump, even while Trump was still President.

  38. The mask mandate was just an excuse to let the rude, selfish, irresposible immature, me, me, me people show their true colors and true to form, blame everyone else for their own behavior. Nobody liked the mandate but not all of us acted like these people. We did not blame our good behavior on the mandate, why? Because we were raised right and taught not to be selfish, chldish, etc.

    All these people who were a danger in the sky should be banned for life and take a course on how to be responsible adults and stop putting it on the other guy, the other party and so on.

  39. “You’re wrong again, for “good” is a lesser “evil” than something more evil than “good”. ”

    English, dude! My point still stands…voting for the “lesser of two evils” is still voting for evil. It’s pretty simple.

  40. Congress should make income tax optional and you’ll see tax penalties go way, way down.

  41. @Brian L: you missed my point entirely. My point was it is a politicized position and nothing to do with ruling on a law based on Constitutionality. The Court is a joke.

  42. @GUWonder – Talk about twisting facts to suit your agenda – Murder is mostly a state crime, not a federal one. It’s also an urban crime, not a rural one. What happened in 2018? Lots of progressive prosecutors elected in a Blue Wave election. Prosecutors who started not prosecuting crimes, letting people out of jail, Ferguson effect, etc. Nice try at blaming Trump for this, but it’s on Progressives, not Trump. Progressive policies kill people of color, which is why Hispanics and blacks are starting to leave the Democratic party.

    And stop making me defend Trump with your idiotic arguments.

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