Airlines To Strengthen Pax Mask Use

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Airlines have announced plans to enforce their policy of mandatory face mask use among passengers. This week, United Airlines said it will “strengthen mandatory mask policies to further mitigate against the spread of COVID-19 and help continue to keep passengers and crew safe.” Starting June 18, United will take steps during boarding and into the flight to ensure compliance. “While the overwhelming majority of passengers are complying with United’s mandatory policy, starting on June 18, any passenger that does not comply when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list,” the company said in a statement. “Customers on this list will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review.”

United is making it clear that the situation will not escalate during the flight, and that flight attendants will provide masks to passengers who do not have them. “The only exceptions to this policy are individuals who have a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering, those who cannot put on or remove a face covering themselves and small children. Customers are expected to wear a mask for the duration of the flight, except when eating or drinking.”

“Every reputable heath institution says wearing a mask is one of the most effective things people can do to protect others from contracting COVID-19, especially in places like an aircraft where social distancing is a challenge,” said United’s Chief Customer Officer, Toby Enqvist. “We have been requiring our customers to wear masks onboard United aircraft since May 4 and we have been pleased that the overwhelming majority of passengers readily comply with our policy. Today’s announcement is an unmistakable signal that we’re prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew.”

Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Southwest will be following similar guidelines, according to the Airlines for America (A4A) trade group, and are expected to announce similar programs that will penalize those who refuse to wear masks by banning them from future travel. “U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees.”

The airlines have had to create individual policies because the Department of Transportation has been unwilling to make mask use mandatory through the FAA. “As we move through the phases of reopening, the FAA will continue to support airlines and their front-line employees as they implement these CDC guidelines to ensure the health of the traveling public,” the DOT said. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said last week that “when the federal government gets involved, we tend to be much more heavy handed, we tend to be inflexible, and once we put a rule in place, it takes a long time to remove that rule if conditions change.”

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42 COMMENTS

  1. Too bad the FAA doesn’t just come out and say how dangerous this is. Wait until an airliner has a pressurization failure at altitude and see just how many passengers and/or flight attendants pass out trying to get O2 masks on without removing medical face coverings. The industry got lucky that did not happen when TSA mandated the airlines remove O2 generators in lavs. And what about passenger briefings? If a flight attendant takes mask off to do the briefing (since the mask does muffle voices depending on the person), kind of defeats the entire purpose. Just another item to make the airline experience that much worse than it already is. Actually this will just help drive more business from the airlines to charters for those who can afford to do so, which helps me stay employed!

  2. Once again, the narrative of doing something so contradictional as having to keep any kind of facemask on, which by medical standards is only used to prevent contamination of open wounds in Hostipals in particular during a surgery. I agree that like in Asia, if someone is having a cold or a flu, people may want to wear masks to lower the spreading of their own germs and viruses by wearing a mask. The efficiency of that in studies shows that even that is minimal more protection. The viruses are so small that they pass through just about every simple mask, let alone the eyes being exposed anyway. So what is the point? The point is to further the fear from an kind of threat which is bolstered by the official narrative. It is really time that the public starts to ask serious questions, does their own due diligence and stop following the narrative of the main stream media. Businesses must obey while the latest protests are being sanctioned from the mask. It is really sad how the greater part of the public succombs to these kind of regulations without asking questions. Aldous Huxley is either crying or laughing. We are doing it to ourselves.

  3. Once the aircraft ventilation system is operating, the air flow moves from over head, down past the people and is removed at floor level. There is little lateral flow so any viruses that are expelled by passengers are sucked down and out at the floor and not whirled around at face level. There should not be any need for mask to keep virus from being inhaled. Only those people with runny noses or sneezing should wear mask so they don’t shotgun the viruses toward others. Normal breathing will not project virus around because of the downward air flow. Flight attendants will be breathing air from above the passengers so should be safe unless they lean over to make face-to-face contract. The only time mask might be effective is during ground operations when the ventilation system is not operating and people are walking around. Even then the effectiveness of most mask is questionable. I agree that most of this is fear mongering from the government and media. The airlines are forced to follow the agenda or face lawsuits based on no facts. I don’t plan to fly again until all the hype has settled and reason is back in fashion.

    • I agree that the use of masks has questionable benefits, particularly in modern pressurized airliners. But enough with the “fear mongering from the government and media”: the media is just reporting what the experts are recommending, which is that mask wearing be mandatory. There’s no agenda by the media, and of course they are going to be focusing on the doom-and-gloom because as the saying goes, “if it bleeds it leads”. And the “government” seems to have even less of an agenda because it’s such an uncoordinated mess of patchwork rules across the nation. If it wasn’t over such a serious matter, it would be laughable.

      But getting back to the original topic, it will be interesting to see what would happen in a depressurization event. Thankfully those are pretty rare, but using the FAA’s risk/consequence matrix, it’s a “remote” likelihood but at least “marginal” risk that wearing a mask will delay or impede using an oxygen mask, so that’s at least a “medium” risk. Exactly what the risk of covid works out to be is subject to interpretation, but I suspect it’s anywhere from “low” to “serious”, so the risk/benefit of mask wearing probably averages out to 50/50. For me personally, that’s questionable enough that if I were making a risk-based decision, I’d think twice about it. And given that it appears the airlines are going to make this mandatory-mandatory, my risk-based decision says I should just stay home or find other means of transportation.

        • As a pulmonary & critical care physician (who treats COVID-19 patients in an ICU setting) and pilot, the purpose of a non-N95 mask is to minimize transmission of the virus. It is not 100% perfect but it is 6-fold greater than no mask at all. This is not some musings of the media, but based on scientific data. Although the airline safety briefings state to remove one’s mask before placing an O2 mask in the event of depressurization, placing an O2 mask over one’s mask would provide adequate oxygenation. If you need to prove it to yourself, you can do so if you have an oxygen source in your plane and a pulse oximeter. Fly at 9000 ft MSL or higher and with your cloth/paper mask on, measure your O2 saturation with and without wearing your O2 mask.
          I’m more concerned that the passenger oxygen source on commercial airlines might NOT be operational when needed (I’ve had that experience once).

          • What data shows it to be a “6-fold” reduction?

            I know for a fact that a 60-degree level turn will generate 2Gs of acceleration because one can work out the math easily enough, and there is a wealth of real-world test data that shows the calculation to be true. I haven’t seen equivalent data on non-N95 cloth mask usage.

          • The purpose of the the 02 mask is to give you more O2 with pressure and we are talking 25K plus where these masked are used. The ones we use in the cockpit say right on them will not seal with beards so I am pretty sure they won’t seal with a mask on.

        • There was a time not too long ago when a news media was succumbing to pressures of business competition when an anonymous report was given from a soon to be exposed whistle blower. The Pentagon Papers revealed three decades of government obfuscation, preventing main stream media and the American public from learning about clandestine military operations during the Vietnam war.

          On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court decided, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required for prior restraint injunction. The nine justices wrote nine opinions disagreeing on significant, substantive matters.

          Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

          — Justice Black
          Media’s agenda is to inform the public in a free society. The attacks against “main stream media” is nothing new since the New York Times and Washington Post were served injunctions (and lost) against reporting documents revealing government’s role in escalating the Vietnam war with predicted losses ultimately proving intervention was unwinnable. A poor chapter in American history and repeated again by Russia invading Afghanistan. American soldiers did what was asked of them and gave their lives in belief of patriotism.

      • You are quite right it is a rare event. But it still happens, just ask Southwest Airlines.

        It will be interesting to see how Southwest would enforce the passenger medical masks due to the way Southwest boards their planes.

        • I shouldn’t think it would be any different than how the other airlines enforce the mask rule. Sure, it’s open seating, but the other airlines also line up passengers for boarding. And I presume it’s at the door to the gate or the aircraft where the enforcement is done.

  4. Guess the airlines forgot about all that money that the TAXPAYERS just gave them and less and less people are going to want to fly with this mask mandate. Instead they want to act like bullies for something that is recommended by the cdc. Flying is miserable now and I avoid it at all cost. We need to stop bailing them out with out tax dollars if they quickly forget about the people in the back that bailed them out.

    • Absolutely right K.B. Being part of establishing and enforcing a “New Normal” is just plain wrong. They could at least have argued about the Ventilation Systems and the safety aspects. Insteadhe are following suit in becoming the long arm of Pharma interests… if you want to boil it down to the essence.

  5. I’m reading these comments from the perspective gained from 35 years in public health. I’d like to emphasize that masks are a rather weakly effective tool among a very limited number of options in controlling the spread of the pandemic. But in environments where frequent hand washing and “social distancing” are not possible, there are no practical options. The fact is that if the passengers can be made to wear a mask it will reduce the incidence of infection to cabin crew, gate agents, passengers and flight deck crew… in that order. Certainly these masks are uncomfortable and a nuisance. And some people just cannot tolerate them. Still it makes sense and is good public health practice to do what ever is possible and necessary to enforce their use.
    I’m not qualified to assess the added risk of hypoxia that may result from the necessity to remove a cloth mask in the response to a cabin decompression. But based on intuition and and decades of observation of the typical passenger behavior to all of the safety cautions from take off to landing, I suspect it is negligible. I do know something about the risks of corona virus disease and it’s transmission. And I don’t like the odds among employees of the air transport industry. I urge you to use your influence to be sure you and your colleagues support the use of masks.
    If you disagree, please invite me to ride along on one of your upcoming trips. I’ll share my advice and opinion on your airmanship. I suspect you will value it at least as much as I value your views on pandemic controls.

    • The problem is, I’m seeing all health experts saying “it’s a fact that face masks help prevent transmission”, but I have yet to see the actual data that supports that hypothesis. The little data that I have seen lumps face masks in with social distancing, stay at home orders, and hand-washing to the point that it’s virtually impossible to pull out the effectiveness of each individual action. And I especially have not seen or become aware of any data that shows the effectiveness of cloth masks after an hour or more of continuous use: does it increase their effectiveness, or decrease it, or have no effect at all? And how often do these masks need to be washed, and what is an effective means of washing them? And does the amount of time they are worn affect how often they need to be washed (e.g. if I wear a mask for one hour cumulative time a day, is it more or less or the same as someone who wears the same type of mask for 10 hours cumulative time in a day)? Also, if I just keep my mouth closed and breath through my nose, how does that compare to wearing a mask?
      But in addition to all of that, I simply find wearing a mask to be very uncomfortable, to the point of being intolerable after more than a few minutes (perhaps around 15 minutes).
      I also worry that face mask usage has become a feel-good measure that has the wearer let their guard down and assume that as long as they wear a mask, they’re safe. Just based on local observations, it seems most people have essentially gone back to business as usual, and I will be surprised if we don’t see nationwide flare-ups of covid cases within a month.
      Not all of us are of the “face mask requirements are an affront to my freedoms” crowd, but have actual worries and problems with mask usage.

      • I was careful in my post to emphasize the limited effectiveness of each of the universally recommended general preventive measures. In the absence of a vaccine, a therapy, a screening lab test and/or a safe and effective treatment, masks are crucial in reducing transmission. Because you “haven’t seen the actual data”is not a reason to not wear a mask. I don’t see the pilot’s certificate and medical before buying a ticket on your airline. Nor do I ask for the TC and logs for the aircraft. The masks are for your protection from covid19 transmitters. What don’t you understand about that?

        • “The masks are for your protection from covid19 transmitters.”
          No, they aren’t. Even the CDC says that the masks are for *everyone else’s* protection from the wearer. There are plenty of studies that show cloth masks are ineffective against picking up an infection. Absent any supporting scientific data, it’s purely hypothetical that their use even prevents spreading covid (or any other virus).

          • The mask is intended to reduce the release of COVID19 virus from the infected individual to the susceptible uninfected contact. The mask reduces the expression of a significant amount of virus from the mouth and nose of the infected person The effectiveness in preventing the transmission from a person wearing a mask is limited but not insignificant.
            But a mask is not particularly effective in protecting a susceptible, non-infected person from inhaling a sufficient dose of CORONA19 virus to protect against infection. Thus just wearing a mask is no assurance of personal protection.
            In other words, you are a pilot standing at the door to the cockpit welcoming pax aboard. All of the passengers are wearing masks. Any infected passengers will be emitting virus but at a significantly reduced level. Your risk of being infected is consequently reduced regardless if you are or are not masked yourself.
            If none of the infected passengers is wearing a mask, the “dose” of CORONA19 virus will be elevated as will be your risk of infection.
            The real world test of this phenomenon has been in countries where masks have been widely used. There the incidence and prevalence and mortality has been reduced. Currently both the CDC in the US and the WHO recommend wearing masks in public. And the major air carriers in the US are ‘mandating’ them.

          • I still have yet to see solid data that actually shows masks reduce transmission rates to any significance. The countries that have had success in reducing covid are far more successful at all of the mitigation steps, so it’s hard to use that data to prove it was the masks that had any effect. And that’s the issue I have with mandatory mask usage: it’s simply unknown precisely what effect (if any) that they provide. And given that I find them very uncomfortable to wear for anything more than a handful of minutes, coupled with the fact that at least locally there are many who refuse to abide by even physical distancing, I choose not to wear the masks and avoid going most places. That includes flying commercially (or using any other form of public transportation).

          • @Gary B, I think you misinterpreted Dan V’s words, so your “No, they aren’t.” is not correct. However, Dan V’s words are ambiguous and so easy to misinterpret. Dan V said, “The masks are for your protection from covid19 transmitters.” That can be interpreted as “the mask you wear is personal protection for you against covid19 transmitters”. I think the intended meaning is, “the policy of having everyone wear masks is for your protection by placing source control masks on everyone, including the covid19 transmitters, even unwitting presymptomatic covid19 transmitters.” And those who are expert on the subject are telling us that the policy of having everyone wear masks is sufficiently effective, worthwhile source control.

  6. I don’t get these comments. What part of “Every reputable heath institution says wearing a mask is one of the most effective things people can do to protect others from contracting COVID-19” are we missing here? And the media is biased in reporting that?

    The airlines also expect me to wear a shirt and pants and all that protects others from is seeing my ugly body. I suppose I should protest that.

    As for depressurization — it takes virtually no time to strip off a facemask, and no doubt that’s part of the passenger safety briefing now. There might be some added risk but it would be minimal and for a very rare event.

    • The mainstream media are freaking out about Trump rallies, but have no problem with “protest” rallies.
      THOUSANDS of people attended the THREE public funeral services for George Floyd, even while local Boards of Health continued to prohibit private funeral gatherings of more than 8 people.

      Here in the Peoples Republik, you cannot worship in a church with more than 9 other people. But a mob of hundreds of “peaceful protesters” can burn down that church, without receiving the usual sanctimonious Covid Theatre treatment that is visited upon the rest of us. The Suffolk County (Boston area) District Attorney refuses to prosecute rioters, while she lectures the rest of us about white privilege and systemic racism.

      Yeah – the media is biased; they don’t even try to hide it anymore. The New York Times stopped being a newspaper when Donald Trump won the 2016 election. They now are an unapologetic opinion journal. Good for them; bad for us. But I completely support their first amendment right to be as biased and untruthful as they want to be. Two words: Russian Collusion.

      TDS belongs in the DSM. It’s more prevalent than Covid 19.

      • Exactly Yars. Funny how we were first told not to wear mask they only draw in bacteria and even the Surgeon General said we did not need them. When the entire thing started we were not required to wear a mask now 4 months later they are pushing it.

        • But to point out again, the media was only repeating what the CDC and medical experts were saying at the time. First they were saying don’t wear masks, then they were saying do wear masks. In both cases, the media only repeated that messaging. The media certainly didn’t make it up. Let’s at least blame the message maker, not the message deliverer.

          • Okay Gary. I yield to your contrarian position. Here is the most recent meta-analysis re masks that I can find- https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/86812

            As I said in my first post, the mask is a weak intervention tool. None the less, it is effective. If it’s too much to ask that you err on the side of a potential intervention that carries a
            negligible risk at minor cost and inconvenience, that’s a shame.
            Given the magnitude of the pandemic in my country, even a very small reduction in the Ro is critical. You do the math. I’m out.

      • @YARS, your sweeping statement ‘The mainstream media … have no problem with “protest” rallies.’ is incorrect. There are plenty of mainstream media reports that both are a bad news for pandemic spread. You just don’t notice them.

  7. Using established data of time of useful consciousness before hypoxia sets in for passengers unaware of the time to rip off their masks and don oxygen masks; 9-15 seconds@45k feet, 30-60 seconds@35k feet, 2.5-3 mins@28k feet. I presume a new normal of flight attendants adding “Rip off your mask immediately when the oxygen masks drop down from the overhead bin and…… blah blah blah. I don’t know of new placards will be printed for passengers on commercial flights.

    • Those times are for people who would have training and actually react to the emergency. They don’t account for the “startle” effect of very loud wind noises and debris flying around, cabin clouding up due to moisture evaporation from loss of pressure, or sometimes what can be the painful effects of sudden pressure changes to ones ears. I can just imagine all the blood being thrown around the cabin from all those passengers who do manage to “rip” off their masks, tearing or removing their own ears, by the ear loops the hold most masks in place, in the process.

      Of course if I had a well trimmed beard while piloting a jet the FAA would give me all kinds of grief due to Emer masks not “sealing” with a beard!

  8. “I can just imagine all the blood being thrown around the cabin from all those passengers who do manage to “rip” off their masks, tearing or removing their own ears, by the ear loops the hold most masks in place, in the process.”
    You’re being facetious, right? How are people attaching their masks? With superglue and skin grafts? In public I wear a cloth mask with elastic around the back of my head. When I don’t need it any more, it takes about a second to pull it down off my nose and mouth, where it sits around my neck looking like the top of an ascot. I tried the ear loop style and it wouldn’t stay on. My ears are too floppy and the ear loops just pull off over the ears.

  9. I’m so confused…. The narrative in the beginning was “”NEVER” “NEVER” Touch Your Face”. Now the narrative is “Rub The COVID-19 Infected Mask All Over Your Face”. Moving your jaw rubs the mask against your skin. Try wearing a mask without touching it and your face. So now, when you touch the COVID-19 infected item you’re very likely going to transfer it to and rub it into your face.

    Search youtube “never touch your face”. I wonder what next months narrative will be????

  10. N95 masks block out 95% of particulate matter, like dust! They do nothing against viruses, which are orders of magnitude smaller than the air passages in the masks!

    Surgical masks prevent hair and skin cells from falling into the incision! They might slow down bacteria, but they do nothing against viruses!

    All this is about is appearances! It just looks like you are doing something against Covid-19, when in fact you are doing nothing!

    In fact masks force the wearer to breath-in their own carbon dioxide, and they reduce the amount of oxygen you are getting, thus negatively affecting your immune system! Too much CO2 can cause hypercapnia, and too little oxygen can cause hypoxia! Most pilots have heard of hypoxia, aka altitude sickness!

    In some studies 80% of health workers wearing masks have reported frequent headaches!

    These airlines are run by people who don’t really care about the science, nor the health of their passengers!

    • Finally, someone else who is aware of the CO2 rebreathing issue with these masks! And the cabin altitude most airliners are pressurized to will just magnify those adverse effects. Even more so with smokers.

  11. I see this evening that our illustrious governor has just made masks mandatory, basically, for all California citizens when outside their personal residence. It will be interesting to see how that flies, given that several major law enforcement honchos have stated they would not actually enforce the directive. I had made the comment a couple of weeks ago that the easing of restrictions came about not because the initial objective was accomplished but because it was becoming obvious to the political leadership they were about to lose control of their flock.