So THAT’S Why Airlines Really Started Having Passengers Wear Masks

by SharonKurheg

When the travel world looks back at all this #coronacrapola, I think we’re going to see a lot of changes, especially in terms of airlines. By this point, I think that list is already too long and we’re only entering our third month of it all!

But April 27th was the date when the whole “passengers should wear masks on planes” thing started. And the history of how it came out happening may not be exactly how it appears.

JetBlue was the first one to mandate that passengers wear masks on planes. From their April 27th press release:

JetBlue today announced that starting May 4 all customers will be required to wear a face covering during travel. The policy comes after the airline began requiring all crewmembers to wear face coverings while working. JetBlue has modeled its policy on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines that indicate all individuals should wear a face covering in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself. It’s about protecting those around you,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. “This is the new flying etiquette. Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others. We are also asking our customers to follow these CDC guidelines in the airport as well.”

And then all the other airlines starting doing the same thing. Delta and United announced they would start requiring masks on May 4th. Frontier started on May 8th. Alaska, Southwest and American began requiring masks during flights on May 11th.

So it sounded as if the CDC made the guideline, JetBlue decided it was the right thing to follow it, and then all the other airlines fell onto the pile, right?


Well, more like yes and no.

See, on April 28th, members of both parties in the House transportation committee sent a letter to the Airlines for America, which is an advocate on behalf of the leading U.S. airlines. It said, in part:

…Additionally, we would note that foreign airlines, including Air Canada, are requiring passengers to wear masks as a condition of travel. We would also urge your airline members to adopt clear, enforceable policies, accompanied by clear guidance to frontline workers, such as crewmembers and airport customer service agents, that require flight attendants and passengers to wear masks or other face coverings for the entirety of their air travel during this public health emergency. It is critical that your member airlines have in place strong and consistent policies that limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the safety and health of frontline airline workers and passengers.

You can read the whole letter here.

So in chronological order:

  • 4.03.20 – CDC made the guidelines to wear a mask
  • 4.17.20 – Air Canada (which was mentioned in the House committee’s letter) announced requiring face covers
  • 4.27.20 – JetBlue made its policy change. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (which represents flight attendants at United, Alaska, Spirit and Frontier among other carriers), praised JetBlue for leading the way on mandating masks.
  • 4.28.20 – The House transportation committee, which you KNOW had been working on this for a while, published their letter. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines flight attendants, issued a statement with praise for the committee.
  • 4.29.20 onward – All the other airlines started announcing their new policies regarding masks

So it’s really all semantics, I know…the bottom line is that airlines made passengers wear facial covering on the planes. Well, until they didn’t, about a week after they did.

Because there’s been a lot of changes with this #coronacrapola, especially with the airlines.

#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


George May 16, 2020 - 9:19 am

It’s just about reducing liability. That’s number one.
If it has a side effect of security theater, and making people think they’re safer, it’s a bonus. But the number one thing is to limit your liability.

I’m flying every week. I board the plane with a mask on, sit down, and once we push back, I remove my mask for the duration of the flight (I’ll put it on to go to lav, and then getting off plane).

Willy May 16, 2020 - 11:39 pm

Wow, awesome. I’m subscribing to your blog. So glad to see some rational thought vis a vis travel and the, as you call it, coronacrapola. Props to George for playing the game well.


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