Time To Mask Up On Planes Again?

We’re entering another Covid wave. Peak will probably come in mid-January. In the meantime there’s a lot more Covid in the U.S. We can see that in case numbers, but most cases go undetected. Perhaps the best data source is wastewater measures.

The good news is that hospitalizations and deaths no longer follow the way they used to. Infection fatality has declined markedly. Some of that is because the virus itself has become less deadly as it spreads faster. Some of it is because of background immunity, both from vaccination and higher infection, that at least primes the immune system even if it only reduces the likelihood of getting sick. And some of it is because so many of the most vulnerable people have already died.

Bottom-line, Covid-19 is with us and rising again, but it’s no longer as dangerous. Masking isn’t required on public transportation any longer in the U.S., however the CDC is back to recommending masking. Most people won’t listen.

Indeed, most of the masks I do see in airports and on planes are cloth or cheap paper masks. That I do not understand.

  • Low quality masks made sense as a strategy to meet the requirements in place without providing protection.

  • If you’re going to mask when it’s not required, the whole point seems like actual protection so you should wear a good mask.

Still, the CDC’s point – which seems right – is that you can protect yourself and others (from you) not just from Covid-19 but also flu and RSV which are spreading at high levels as well.

Long before the pandemic I wanted to wear masks on planes, the way it’s been common in Asia for years, as a way of avoiding the flu when that’s prevalent. I just hate getting sick. I don’t like feeling sick and I don’t have time for the reduced productivity it brings. I do feel like I have social permission to do so now.

I’m not particularly high risk for Covid-19. I’ve had it once, I didn’t love it, but it was fine. I’m up to date on my boosters. And if I get it again I’ll tell my doctor I want Paxlovid, just in case.

I still carry N95, KN95, and KF94 masks in my laptop bag. Maybe it’s time to put one on again in crowded indoor spaces when frankly I’m not looking for any kind of social interaction anyway?

To be clear I see little reason to mandate masks. That’s because

  1. delaying infection has little public health benefit to the extent that we’re not using that as a bridge to vaccines and better treatments
  2. we’re not currently facing a collapsing health care system the way we risked one at other points during the pandemic.

Instead I see it as a personal choice to protect oneself, either as someone especially vulnerable or just because it sucks worse to get sick than to wear a mask. I wouldn’t wear one inflight in a premium cabin on a transoceanic trip, by the way. Relative risk is lower, and personal cost to wearing one higher, than just in the airport or during boarding and deplaning.

Is masking up for flu, RSV, and Covid during peaks something you would consider?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. It is hard to think of a public health measure that is cheaper and easier than wearing a mask in public. In airports, on planes and in other situations where people are crowded together, you never know the health status of those with whom you will be in close contact. Not only do I wish to avoid getting sick, I’d hate to be responsible for getting someone else sick, knowingly or unknowingly.

    Too bad it is usually impossible to identify the person who infects another. Otherwise there could be legal liability (economic losses, pain and suffering etc.) for causing injury or death in others just like in a traffic accident or cases involving TB or HIV transmission. Failing to wear a mask in certain situations could equate to negligent or reckless conduct.

    Thinking of others is contrary to the natural inclinations of many. Those folks might behave differently if they risked personal consequences for their conduct.

  2. Good heavens Gary. You and your silly masks. Let me put it in terms that are true and that you will appreciate:

    Masks = TSA

  3. Gary — you don’t seem like a stupid man. But if masks somehow work against respiratory viruses — something experts NEVER believed prior to Covid — why does all the evidence show they don’t work? For starters, if you don’t want to rely on your lived experience, you could look at the thousands of charts @ianmsc has published on twitter (or read his book). Masks have never stopped a single Covid wave anywhere in the world. You might as well wear garlic around your neck — masking is no better than witchcraft. It’s long past time to stop being hystericial, much less encouraging others to share this mental illness.

  4. the obvious question for all of those who believe that masking did such a great job is why widespread masking never was suggested, let alone imposed, even though respiratory diseases including the flu have killed far more people than covid ever did or will.
    N95 masks weren’t invented in 2020.
    If they were so successful, why did nobody figure out their validity in just the last 2 years?
    Or are masks really not any more successful than the “safe vaccines” that are being shown to have killed perfectly healthy people while legitimate sicientists that warned exactly of those risks were silenced?

  5. “safe vaccines” that are being shown to have killed perfectly healthy people

    Being shown where? What evidence do you have?

    legitimate sicientists that warned exactly of those risks were silenced

    If they were silenced, how did you hear about them?

    respiratory diseases including the flu have killed far more people than covid ever did or will

    Ever hear of fractions? You got the numerator down. The denominator seems to be missing.

    N95 masks weren’t invented in 2020

    This is demonstrably correct.

    why did nobody figure out their validity in just the last 2 years?

    You need me to hold your hand on PubMed?

  6. @Weight loss

    There has been a 30% increase in clot related deaths this year alone.

    People are falling over and dying because of the vax

  7. @ chad — The clots are cuased by COVID itself way more than the vaccines. As suggested by Weight loss, have a look around PubMed. You know all of those COVID-realted strokes and heart attacks? Many are caused BY CLOTS. A very high percentage of deaths are catually caused by clots, with varying underlying causes, such as heart failure, kideny faileure, liver failure, cancer, etc.

  8. Covid doesnt cause clots… But the mRna shots do.
    Stop gaslighting the public and get a clue.
    It’s not normal for young people to fall over for no apparent reason.

    Never again on the masks as its evident Fauci and rhe CDC lied about how dangerous Covid was.

  9. Someone on the thread wondered if Gary was a stupid man. I can attest, that in fact, he is ignorant on this subject. He has been wrong about everything since the start of this scam and the fact that he still promotes masks, Paxlovid and the gene-altering shots, tells me he’s learned nothing in the past three years.

  10. Masks have never had any scientific basis. Can we please stop discussing this nonsense for good?!

  11. How about You go live in China?!
    “…where masking was common before the “plan”demic”! If you think the Chinese people love and are ok with being Forced to Comply you are as bad as “Brandon” ignoring their fight against the CCP!
    You have the Personal Choice to mask up or not, AS IT SHOULD BE! Mind your own F’king business! I’m so sick of Tyrants!

    #TheConstitution #ReadItRedpectIt

  12. @ John L — Try turning off FoxNews and actually reading. COVID cuases clots. It has ever since the first cases were reported in China, long before any vaccines.

  13. What a ridiculous suggestion! Masks have been proven over and over to not be effective at all. In fact many more negative effects than positive! Come on, wake up and smell the coffee!

  14. Yes, I’ll wear a mask in the airport and on some flights if cases are high. Good masks do work.

  15. @ Chris / @ Samuel / @ Doug / @ Manuel / @ reggie lee / @ paul o’brien / @ Andy (the other one) / @ chopsticks / @ Tim Dunn / @ Masha / @ Jim Rydell

    Now all of you covidiot anti-maskers can either accept the science or not. Your choice (unless mask wearing is mandated in which case you wear the masks or don’t travel – per my recent flights and taxi rides in Spain).

    Here is the definitive science – a real-world study of about 300,000 individuals in Bangladesh concluded that masks do work to reduce the transmission of COVID19, notably in older people (more vulnerable).

    Case closed.

  16. @ Tim Dunn

    Discriminating against / disenfranchising vulnerable people is not an ethical solution to offset the selfish and self-entitled idiocy of some when simple health options are available (masks).

    Oh, and the application of masks varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction – fester in your own personal belief system all you want – it doesn’t alter the science.

    Amazing how your logical self goes MIA when your belief system kicks in (c’mon, mate, you’re normally one of the brightest on this blog).

  17. @ Vv / @ Derek / @ Nor4 / @ Gene / @ Eddie / @ john / @ weight loss

    Too smart for the audience of this blog…;)

  18. @ David Szerlag

    “A significant difference? Really?”

    Significant difference is determined / defined by very commonly used and accepted statistical analysis, which I why you’ll see data quoted to a confidence interval (e.g. +/- 95%) in the original peer reviewed literature.

    Such is not determined by the ignorant personal perceptions of yourself or others!

    “Would you prefer I punch you in the face if you were that ignorant and cannot remember to cover your mouth and nose?”

    Actually, on my recent SIN-FRA flight the guy across the aisle in the back of the business class cabin was hacking his lungs out for the whole 13-hour flight. He wore no mask, and made absolutely no attempt to cover his mouth at any time, just coughed into the air. Luckily, the crew accommodated my request to move to a vacant seat on the opposite side of the cabin. Oh, and yes, he was an arrogant, dumb, self-entitled American, typical of the sort of attitude of many on this blog.

  19. @ Jefferson Souza

    Oh, how wonderful it would be to deny health care treatment to the hypocritical conspiracy clot covidiots herein.

  20. @ Flying.While.High.Again

    I hope it’s unsmoked British bacon and not that American shit posing as bacon – had the real stuff in the Concorde Room LHR the other day – yummy!

  21. @ libtard attitude adjuster

    Ok, it’s dumbtard adjuster time, folks

    Viral particles in the air are not viral particles in the air. They come attached to airborne droplets and particles. In other words, it’s not the size of the virus that matters.

  22. @ CMorgan

    COVID19 is not a “non-event” for everyone, buddy. And the extent of long term effects are still being discovered.

  23. @ Chad / @ John L

    Try applying your admittedly miniscule cognitive ability. There are four groups of people:

    1) No vaccine / never had covid
    2) Vaccine / never had covid
    3) No vaccine / had covid
    4) Vaccine / had covid

    Now, fella, a basic intelligence test to tease out your (apparently absent) inner scientist – explain how your theory (clots are caused by vaccines not covid) would apply to the above groups.

    Now give us the differential data to prove your conspiracy theories are correct.

  24. @ Mat

    Trying to educate many on this blog is an apparently fruitless exercise. Friends are high flying ER / first response medics who travelled to the world’s hotspots for COVID (From Iran to NY) – they shake their heads in disbelief when I report the ignorance exhibited by many on this and other travel blogs…

  25. First, no on the suggestion…I’ll stick with my immune system and remedies that have served me well. For those of us with medical conditions that can’t wear a mask, this suggestion is troubling because it tells me that people haven’t learned anything in the past year. I always chuckle when the announcement comes on to respect each other’s mask decisions …a little late airlines…I also don’t think at least in the US that the courts or legislature are going to lead us back to mandates. They were not effective and as others have pointed out, neither were the masks themselves. So I wonder why bring it up?

    What really struck me are the comments once again denigrating those with an opposing position …one thing for sure I’ve learned in the past couple years is that there are some people that think far too highly of themselves and their knowledge and how they are absolutely correct in their thinking. Typically, these same people come across at the same time with an attitude that thinks far too lowly of others. To suggest denial of healthcare to those who have an opposing position regarding anything is just absurd. This line of thinking was circulating for some time but I had hoped many who subscribed to this thinking would have by now retired it to the trash bin along with all of the other irrational overreactions we witness in daily life.

  26. @ Mark Rascio

    “To suggest denial of healthcare to those who have an opposing position regarding anything is just absurd.’

    For clarity, the mention of such (in my own post) was indeed intended to be absurd – an illustration of the hypocrisy of some for attaching to certain conspiracy theories about medical science on the one hand only to seek treatments derived from medical science on the other (when it suits them).

    Certain folk herein have an established track record of claiming in extremis that the whole medical science community is in league in a mass conspiracy across dozens of countries.

    Now please consider that, regardless of any individuals’ perceptions or opinions, that the pertaining medical science is available to ANYONE and EVERYONE.

    You simply go to the website “PubMed” and use that as a specialist browser (just like Google) to look up the original literature.

    With such access at your fingertips, nobody else’s opinion actually matters at all. You have access to all of the current science and medicine.

    Some commentary is definitive since it can be supported by scientific / medical evidence (rather than some fake news story misquoting or misrepresenting the original science).

    Once so empowered, you might find the uninformed opinions ceaselessly repeated (typically along political and religious lines) to be increasingly tiresome….;)

  27. @platly

    Well, I’ll take your explanation at face value but there are many, many people that literally as well as figuratively make the statement that those who are not vaccinated should not be treated and so forth…I maintain this is wrongheaded and inconsistent with how medicine treats cancer patients that have smoked for instance or those …or should I say most, that don’t eat right and pay a medical price later.

    While the embargo against any perceived negative coverage of vaccines and / or masks has someone relented, there is no doubt those that questioned the narrative during the pandemic were silenced using many methods. Studies actually taking on issues such as vaccine injury that could lead to a doctor recommending against a vaccine are plentiful…although only recently have some of the more prestigious journals allowed anything perceived as potentially negative to leak out. But, science being what it is, involves many scientists and doctors doing research and publishing various opinions and hypotheses…the very idea that something so new of mRNA technology can be fully understood is to misunderstand science. My concern is the silencing legitimate alternative medical hypothesis and opinion while some unfamiliar with the scientific process claim certain facts are ‘settled’. There have been.many hundreds of studies on the efficacy of masks as well which seem to confirm that during the height of a pandemic mask usage did not have the dramatic desired impact some like to claim. Clearly, logic proves this as well since in many areas where these precautions were sparsely used and not enforced , the numbers didn’t skyrocket. In fact many studies of schools showed in some cases the numbers were worse in heavily masked schools. Logically, if they were significantly effective, where they were not used there would have been substantive increases in viral transmission. While many will find their own isolated cases to prove their opinion one way or another and fact there are so many factors that can skew the numbers one way or another. Coincidence never proves causality…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *