Should Passengers Be Required to Wear Masks Aboard Airplanes?

“Unfortunately, no matter how you configure seating, social distancing at six feet on an airplane is difficult. But we know that masks are one of the most effective tools to mitigate people’s risk of exposure when those around them are also wearing masks. As air travel continues to increase while the country slowly starts to reopen, it’s imperative that the flying public feel safe and comfortable in doing so. This should include the requirement of masks, which will accomplish this goal and protect both crew members and passengers.”

Should Passengers Be Required to Wear Masks Aboard Airplanes?

United Airlines

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The paragraph you just read was from a letter which was written by Steve Cohen — who is a Democratic member of the House of Representatives of the United States serving the ninth district of Tennessee and a senior member of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure — urging that passengers should be required to use face masks while aboard airplanes to mitigate the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in air travel.

The letter was addressed to four people who are in charge of the following departments of the federal government of the United States:

  • Alex Azar, who is the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Elaine Chao, who is the secretary of the Department of Transportation
  • Robert Redfield, who is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Stephen Dickson, who is the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
American Airlines Delta Air Lines

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Copied in on that letter were the chief executive officers of the four largest domestic airlines in the United States — including:

  • Edward Bastian, who is the chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines
  • Douglas Parker, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of American Airlines
  • Oscar Munoz, who is the president and chief executive officer of United Airlines
  • Gary C. Kelly, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines

Some Airlines are Already Requiring or Encouraging the Use of Face Masks

American Airlines Santiago to Miami

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

In early May, American will start the process of distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers”, according to this official announcement from American Airlines which was released as of yesterday, Monday, April 27, 2020. “This offering will expand to all flights as supplies and operational conditions allow.

Members of the flight crew will be required to wear face masks effective as of Friday, May 1, 2020 as part of an initiative to improve cleaning procedures aboard its airplanes; but although customers are strongly encouraged by American Airlines to wear face masks, they are not required to do so.

JetBlue Airways Airbus A320-232

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

JetBlue Airways has taken the initiative one step further by requiring all customers to wear a face covering during travel effective as of Monday, May 4, 2020. “The policy comes after the airline began requiring all crewmembers to wear face coverings while working”, according to this official press release from the airline which was also dated yesterday, Monday, April 27, 2020. “This new policy will require customers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning. Customers will be reminded of this requirement before their flight via email and at the airport by both terminal signage and announcements. Small children who are not able to maintain a face covering are exempt from this requirement.”



Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially advised against wearing face masks in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, as they were deemed not necessary in order to stay healthy…

…but then on Friday, April 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory with the recommendation of covering your face with a simple cloth face covering — such as a scarf as one of many examples — in order to slow the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States.

Should passengers be required to wear masks aboard airplanes — and if so, for how long — or should wearing a facial covering of some type aboard airplanes be optional and voluntary?

All photographs ©2013, ©2017, ©2019, and ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

One thought on “Should Passengers Be Required to Wear Masks Aboard Airplanes?”

  1. Al says:

    Of course passengers should wear and be made to wear masks. It’s so obvious! I don’t understand why this should even be a question. It’s a total no brainer. If you take a look at countries/regions such as Taiwan and Hong Kong which have for the most part controlled and contained the virus, EVERYONE wears masks. EVERYONE over there understands that masks (besides washing hands) are effective means to halt the spread of the virus.

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