No Mask, No Fly: Requiring Face Coverings On Planes

  • Connexions
  • 2021-01-23
  • 1812

Mask up or you won't be allowed to board a plane, train or bus. President Biden signed an executive order Thursday, requiring passengers to wear face coverings during interstate travel.

It's one of 10 executive orders signed by the president today aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

Airlines and their employees have been seeking such a federal mask mandate almost since the pandemic began, as they've struggled to deal with score of passengers who refuse to follow the airlines' own mask-wearing rules.

But the Trump administration had refused to enact such a mask mandate, as Trump himself and many in his administration often made a point of going mask-less. The former president hosted huge rallies with like-minded supporters, often mocking Biden and others who wore masks, in spite of overwhelming evidence that properly worn face coverings significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

As a result, fights between airline passengers over someone's refusal to wear a face mask have become all too familiar during the pandemic.

Videos like this one of a brawl between passengers on a Spirit Airlines flight that had just landed in Puerto Rico last October are all over social media, as some travelers decide that resisting wearing a mask on a plane has become a cause worth fighting People coming on board don't find masks to be essential and they have challenged mask compliance across the board, partly because it has been made a political issue," says Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing 50,000 flight attendants at United and several other airlines.

She says while some passengers refuse to wear masks even before boarding, many mask resisters take them off mid-flight to flaunt airlines' rules, and when asked to put their masks back on, Garland says the passengers often become verbally abusive and threaten flight attendants.

"And that is concerning when you're up in the air 30,000 ft or above and don't have all the tools (and support from law enforcement) that you typically do on the ground," Garland says.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has received more than 150 safety complaints over passengers violating airline mask requirements. And the airlines themselves have banned thousands of passengers from flying with them again for refusing to wear masks. Among them, Delta has prohibited more than 880 passengers, United has banned more than 600, and Alaska more than 300.

But despite such actions, many airline passengers continue to refuse to comply with the airlines' mask rules, which is why Garland says a federal mask mandate is needed for air travel.for.

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