Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

…So How Long Can You Keep Your Mask Off Aboard an Airplane While Eating or Drinking?

Many of the everyday habits of people around the world have been adversely affected as a result of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, which was officially declared by the World Health Organization exactly one year ago this coming Thursday…

…So How Long Can You Keep Your Mask Off Aboard an Airplane While Eating or Drinking?

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

…and wearing masks — or cloth covering over the nose and mouth — has become de rigueur virtually everywhere in the world; and to the chagrin of many people who refuse to wear masks for a plethora of reasons which range from political to religious to health to freedom to cultural to fashion to environmental to comfort to being told one year ago yesterday by representatives of virtually every governmental and health organization in the world NOT to wear masks.

One of the places where masks are strictly required to be worn is aboard an airplane — from before boarding for the first time prior to a flight through leaving the airplane for the last time — except for while eating or drinking aboard an airplane.

Members of FlyerTalk discuss a controversial decision by a passenger aboard an airplane — who seemed to prioritize seeking media attention over simply sending a message on something which he believes — to keep his mask off while slowly nibbling on nuts and sipping on a beverage during the entirety of a recent domestic flight from Oulu to Helsinki aboard an airplane operated by Finnair. The passenger in question brought the nuts aboard the airplane himself — whereas the beverage was served to him by a flight attendant.

That antic reportedly cost him the privilege of flying as a passenger on airplanes operated by Finnair for six months — he was supposedly warned by a member of the flight crew to wear a mask — and although he was not official arrested, he was met by law enforcement officials at the airport in Helsinki after the airplane landed safely.

“Well, everyone is willing to execute this guy without knowing what really happened.on board”, advised FlyerTalk member OH-LGG. “Relax.”

FlyerTalk member mpkz responded that “Even his own videos explaining the situation make him look like a tool who decided that since Finnair had no specific rule about when you can take your mask off to eat, eating nuts the entire flight is fine. The guy took this version of events public thinking that he would come out looking good. In his videos, you can hear him talking to police who ask him things like ‘many other passengers think you were acting unreasonably, why would they say that if you weren’t?’”

Yes — the passenger actually recorded his explanation pertaining to his experience.


Delta Air Lines
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

When I traveled by airplane between Atlanta and Denver recently, I wore a mask throughout the entire flight — except when I consumed snacks and beverages which were provided by members of the flight crew aboard the airplane. At no time was I aware of any time limit of which I was permitted to eat or drink while not wearing a mask or cloth covering over the nose and mouth.

I do not like wearing a mask and try not to wear one whenever possible — but I would not even think of prolonging my eating and drinking aboard an airplane simply to avoid wearing one as long as possible. To me, that is like the employee who works harder to avoid work rather than simply doing the job he or she gets paid. If a private entity requires that I wear I mask, I either usually comply with that restriction or choose to avoid that private entity altogether.

I chose not to directly link the video or the story in this article for the aforementioned reasons. Rather, I am simply curious as to what is the longest acceptable duration of time a mask may be kept off of the face while eating or drinking aboard an airplane.

What do you think?

Other articles at The Gate which deal with the topic of masks include:

All photographs ©2018 and ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Science tells us masks do not stop a virus. And if they did, why would anyone who is wearing a mask care if someone else isn’t? They’re only “killing” themselves, and couldn’t possibly hurt anyone who is wearing a magical virus barrier mask. Come on, let’s get serious. Sure a mask will block globs of spit if you try to sneeze or spit into someone’s face or maybe attempt to French kiss someone, but from my experience most of us don’t go around doing that. But if you are the kind of person that does do that sort of thing, then by all means, you should be wearing a mask. Otherwise, wash your hands and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and let’s all stop being manipulated by politicians, liberal camera hogs and CNN.

    1. You have to understand two things:
      1) people with weak or no self-esteem need some way to signal their virtue. Masks are perfect for this because they are so visible. They will defend masks forever for this reason, science be damned.
      2) the number one fear of those same people is ostracism. Removing the mask is (to them) a sure way to be ostracized by others like them. They fear this and therefore would never go anywhere without their masks.

  2. I sat in business on one transpacific a few months ago and nursed a glass of wine for an hour whenever I grew tired of the mask. When I sensed FA movement, I just picket up the glass an took a sip. I probably had 4 glasses in addition to those at meals. I slept covered in my blanket, turned toward the window, lights out, and removed the mask. FAs didn’t bother me.

  3. I also have a very ill-fitting mask I’ll wear when I go economy. It has a huge gap under the chin that allows fresh air in.

  4. It’s all Covid theater at this point. People are divided. The “wear a damn mask” crowd claims you will die if you don’t wear a mask and should skip eating and drinking on a plane for the safety of others. Yet they are willing to “risk their lives” to travel on vacation. Then there is the “Covid is a hoax” crowd that never ever wants to wear a mask. Both are wrong but my big questions are that if we are following the science shouldn’t we either believe that the HEPA filters on the plane are good enough to protect us? Or believe that mask will protect us from death so they shouldn’t be taken off at all on a plane where only people making essential trips are allowed. Wearing masks is overrated and taking them off once seated on the plane should be safe enough if you are willing to risk walking through an airport.

  5. Given that the IATA originally said that masks did not help much on planes and the fact that airlines say that air travel is safe (which I believe), the fact that at the same time airlines have been pushing for masks to be worn is troubling and puzzling. The fact that it’s now a Federal law means that there is the potential for mask wearing to be mandatory long after it’s really necessary.

    The answer also depends on the type of seat you are in. If you are in a first class suite or seat, the danger of passing on COVID during a meal (or while sleeping) is minimal, so it’s certainly safe to not replace the mask at any time during the meal.

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