Airlines Develop A Spine On Mask Enforcement


In 1993, two businessmen named William Walts and George Richardson proposed to launch a new airline called Smokers Express. It was to be based in Florida. It may be helpful to recall that smoking was banned on U.S. airlines in 1990. I had to look this up, by the way. I thought it was much earlier than that. And actually, smoking bans varied; some were in place as early as the 1980s, but China didn’t ban inflight smoking until 2017.

In any case, Smokers Express was in reaction to this and the business plan was to provide a members-only charter arrangement whereby passengers could puff their way to a limited number of destinations on the East Coast and to Las Vegas. On its DC-9s, Smokers Express would provide free cigarettes, movies, steaks and burgers and no screaming kids to shatter the nicotine-induced calm in the cabin. “There are 54 million smokers that are pretty well being treated like second-class citizens,” Richardson told the Baltimore Sun on the eve of the Smokers Express launch. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a more appealing way to travel.

But evidently, investors never felt the love, for Smokers Express failed to attract enough capital to get to the starting gate, much less exit it. It became just another of many out-of-left-field American business ideas that ended up as road kill. Shortly thereafter—and maybe even before that—we accepted bans against smoking in public places, of which airliners happened to be just one example. Some of it had to do with rising acceptance that evidence of smoking’s health risk was real and secondary smoke inhalation was part of it. Non-smokers had rights, too.

So now history repeats with the airlines requiring masks as a COVID-19 mitigation. Same argument about rights; same denial of medical efficacy. And last week, Delta made an interesting calculation. It disembarked two passengers from a Delta flight departing Detroit because they refused to wear masks. It’s worth noting that Delta was the first international carrier to ban smoking from all its flights. That was in 1994.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian was blunt about it. “We’ve been steadily and rather aggressively stepping up our enforcement of the mask policy. You cannot board a Delta plane unless you have a mask on. If you board the plane and you insist on not wearing your mask, we will insist that you don’t fly Delta into the future. We already have over 100 people we’ve put on that list,” he told NBC.

At a time when airlines are struggling for every paying passenger they can get, Bastian’s harsh stance seems like PR suicide. I actually think it’s just the reverse. In my view, a loud minority objects to masks using the personal rights or “sheep” argument. When would-be passengers worried about COVID-19 infections—and that’s most of us, I think—hear that, maybe they’ll be confident enough in Delta to believe the airline will stick to its commitment to enforce whatever mitigations we have available. In an airline cabin, that’s exactly nothing, except a mask. There’s too much evidence out there now to dismiss the efficacy of masks, although the degree can be argued.

I suppose Delta’s policy could drive passengers into the arms of United or American, who are once again packing cabins rather than blocking a middle seat, as Delta is doing. And are those two airlines more lax on mask policy? Interesting psychology. But if confidence is a factor, I don’t see how you instill it by declaring you’ll fill your airplane and masking is mandatory (wink, wink).

Public opinion is shifting rapidly on mask use, according to this Hill-HarrisX poll done in May. As the article reports, people are paying attention and despite what reservations they may have not related to tickets, attitudes are changing.

Last week saw another airline, Emirates, announce its own confidence plan. It said it would cover the cost of passengers’ COVID-19 medical expenses up to $174,000 with a daily $116 quarantine allowance for 14 days if any got infected on one of its flights.

This is also interesting psychology. How would you ever prove you acquired the infection on an Emirates aircraft? I’m sure it’s explained somewhere in the exclusionary fine print. But does it plant the seed in the customer’s brain that, well, this must be safe or they wouldn’t be doing that? Maybe. Or maybe it nudges someone who was on the fence to actually book a ticket.

All airlines, but especially U.S. airlines, will need all of that they can get. The airlines had a big day on Sunday, boarding 799,861 people, the highest single day number since March 17. But it’s still only 30 percent of the passenger volume at this time last year. We have a long, long way to go to reach parity, much less growth. Arguing about masks is hardly a ripple in the pond.

Editor’s note: I realize this is a hot-button issue. I will ask that you keep your comments civil and on point. Thanks.

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  1. Another reason why I could care less about Airlines and their financial situation. Let them fail.

    • Exactly. Good ole Ed is counting on the taxpayers to bail them out as he runs the airline into the ground. He has that NY mentality still and I watch Delta’s stock going lower and lower as AA keeps climbing.

  2. Bravo, I do not travel as much as I in a sensitive group, but when I go short distances I use my twin. however for longer distances I must use Airlines. I will go exclusively Delta now because of its mask policy. I see anyone who won’t wear a mask as saying to me ” I don’t care a bit what happens to you”

    • Delta was one of the last airlines to have a mask policy and AA and United were the first to ban people for not using mask.

    • A piece of cloth in the form of a seat belt also protects people. And there are people that argue against seat-belt laws.

      Like a seat belt, a mask is not 100% effective. But neither is it completely ineffective, even in an indoor environment with recirculated air. You just have to reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of virus particles inhaled to minimize the chance of someone getting sick. Or, if they do get sick, minimize the severity of symptoms. Masks do both, reducing the amount of virus particles exhaled by some, and reducing the particles inhaled by others. Everyone wearing a mask reduces (not eliminates) overall transmission.

      • As a commercial pilot I do not wear a mask when I am flying the plane. Everything I breath out goes through the entire cabin and out the outflow valves.

        Seat belts are certified devices that are tested and proven. You do not have people bringing their own seat belts with them made out of cloth to use as a safety device.

        All of this for a 97% survival rate virus and yet when the Dems were in office and the H1N1 which had more cases and killed more people no one wanted mask.

        • Your statements don’t seem to support your position. A 97% survival rate means a 3% death rate, no? 3% of the US population is 9,846,000 people (about 10 million people). That seems bad…

          As to the H1N1 comparison, 12,469 US citizens died of H1N1. Well more than 10 times that number of US citizens have already died from Covid-19, and that number continues to steadily rise. The H1N1 virus was contained well before the general population needed to consider masking, but masking was done in isolated hotspots, as were other measures like school closings.

          Back to Covid-19, so far, the data clearly indicate that wearing masks and distancing from one another physically decreases transmission rates, hospitalization rates, and death rates. Do you have data that indicate otherwise?

      • Kirk, good comment. Pax not wearing a mask or even a partial covering of the face, like nose hanging out, is dense.

  3. An acquaintance a few years ago was bragging about how she got on an airline flight with the flu, because nothing was going to stop her vacation on a FL beach. In fact got quite insulted when called out on it. Today, she’s all over the mask, getting quite upset when she sees somebody not wearing a mask.

  4. For as long as masks are required anywhere, I will remain at home since that is the only true way to guarantee my risk of getting covid is as low as possible. And I do mean avoiding *all* public places, except for outdoors (and even then, only when I can guarantee I spend most of my time more than 6 feet from anyone else). Getting on an airliner would be the absolute last thing I’d want to do until there is a vaccine available, and nothing the airlines can do will convince me otherwise.

  5. I’m still stunned (in a bad way) whenever I hear anti-mask arguments. Here, just north of San Francisco, everyone wears a mask when in any sort of public place like a market. In fact you can’t enter a market here without a mask, they limit the number of people inside, and everyone takes seriously the social distancing rules. I feel sorry for the airlines, but I won’t be flying any of them while this pandemic is raging.

    • Not everyone who is against wearing masks has the same reason. Some people are just extremely uncomfortable wearing one for an extended period, and no amount of shaming is going to change their physical discomfort. I also question the actual efficacy of non-medical cloth masks and find too many people behaving as though the mask will protect *them* from potentially getting covid. But don’t group me with the “it’s my personal freedom” anti-mask group; I just do everything I can to avoid going to indoor public places, and for the very few situations where I can’t avoid doing so, I get in and out as quickly as possible to limit the time I have to wear a (to me) very uncomfortable mask.

      • I find wearing pants a physical discomfort, so that should save me should I venture forth with a mask, but no pants, correct?

        • Please re-read what I actually wrote. I said I *avoid* places that require me to wear a mask, and for the very limited cases where I have no choice, I wear a mask and leave the area as quickly as possible. You might want to consider doing the same regarding your discomfort of pants wearing.

  6. I usually enjoy your articles Paul. However, your statement “There’s too much evidence out there now to dismiss the efficacy of masks“ begs evidence. What evidence? When I see Dr. Fauci in public wearing his around his neck and listen to him squirm when Jim Jordan questioned him point blank about protesters without masks, it’s pretty obvious this entire issue is political. The CCP is giddy. Mao succeeded by dividing the population. Covid will disappear on November 4.

    • This is just a selection of available research on mask efficacy. As Harvard’s Ashish Jha has said, it’s not bomb proof science, but it’s solid, retrospective observational research. It may be strong mitigation or weak, but it is mitigation, nonetheless.

      • Paul, did you get a chance to check out an article written by Dan Reed in Forbes magazine? He brings up an interesting comparison between mask wearing and pax wanting to get on an airline these days. I think it will take a lot more than just requiring wearing a mask to get people to return to the airlines.

        • I did see it. Here’s the link for anyone who’s interested:

          The paper concludes an infection probability of 1 in 4300 if the middle seat is occupied and 1 in 7700 if the seat is kept open. The exposure unit used was a two-hour airline flight. This paper is a pre-print, not peer reviewed. They estimate a mortality bound of 1 in 400,000 to 1 in 600,000. Compare that to one death in 100,000 hour for the GA flying risk. So normalized for the same exposure, it’s a quarter of the GA fatal risk.

          I’m all about understanding risk in a numerical framework, but I have my doubts about this analysis because of the overwhelming difficulty in gaining accurate input. It’s impossible to know if an asymptomatic passenger was encountered on board or somewhere in the process. And, two weeks hence, if that person passed on one infection or 20. Or none. This, I think, is where masking offers some benefit, although it doesn’t confer 100 percent protection.

          It also doesn’t address this: It’s not just about dying. Covid-19 presents in a range of symptoms and effects bounding on no noticeable effect to hospitalization, heart, lung, kidney and liver damage. The hospitalization rate varies by age cohort, but might be as high as 3 to 5 percent.

          Still, if you accept the paper’s risk probability, that’s quite low. But the consequences of an infection can be quite serious. Eventually, I’ll wrap my head around this as more accurate research becomes available and I’ll fly again.

          But not yet.

          • I was thinking more in line with the airlines trust issue or lack thereof the author mentioned in the last half of the article. Why would any airline passenger trust any airline executive saying that it is safe to return to flying just because of mask enforcement when over the past 25+ years the airlines have repeatedly reduced or took away any passenger perks or comforts they could in the name of profit.

          • Paul,

            You and Matt pulled back the curtain on a systemic problem with the way scientific information gets to the public.

            Dan Reed’s original article in Forbes mistakenly reported on Arnold Barnett’s statistics and incorrectly compared the likelyhood of Covid-19 infection to that of dying in a car accident. That was corrected later but it reflects an increasing tendency toward inattentive (even sloppy) scientific reporting in respected mainstream publications.

            For Barnett’s part, his non-peer-reviewed paper is one of about 6000 pre-publications submitted on SARS-CoV-2 since September. Few of them will ever be reviewed in any meaningful sense of the word. Reviewed or not, Dr. Barnett’s paper has now elevated his academic and consulting profile through its appearance in Forbes. Worse, it has added another “truth” to the pandemic cannon that might, or might not, be upheld by later review. If it isn’t, both the personal benefit and the greater harm are already done.

      • I found this today:
        Though I rely on a mask everyday at work, I don’t know who to believe. I will continue to wear a mask outside of work as I don’t want to take on any added risk, even if it is of minimal benefit. My friend and classmate recently passed from this disease. I imagine he wore a mask all the time but who knows where he contracted it, though I suspect work. He had no known medical conditions. So no one thinks I am BS’ing:

  7. All the evidence I have seen is that wearing a mask gives a marginal reduction in the risk of spreading Covid 19, which is a tiny virus, 90nm, which means you cannot see it with optic microscopes, no matter how powerful, and electron microscopes give very blurry computer generated image.
    Something that small will go through fabric like a mouse running through a soccer goal.
    But they think it is most contagious when mixed with moisture from breathing, and wearing a mask is a marginal improvement on nothing at all.
    And lots of marginal improvements make a difference, especially inside. Personally I hate masks but where I live you get fined now if you do not wear them in shops, so I do. One made by hand out of fabric. I refuse to wear throw away plastic ones from China because no-one is incinerating them and they will end up in the ocean for at least 50 years. Even if they are cheap.
    But I avoid other inside places, not hard to do, even if I miss going to watch the theatre or listen to music.
    And I am afraid the thought of flying in a commercial jet, wearing a mask for hours, just gives me the heeby jeebys. I quite understand why it is necessary, the marginal difference argument, but really I would have to be paid a lot to do so. If this carries on and I really need to see my family on the other side of the world, I will buy a boat and sail there. Idea was in my mind before Covid and it is looking better every day.

  8. C’mon, Paul. Everyone knows this is all part of Big Mask, the secret movement to… What?

    I’m still trying to figure out who, exactly, is behind this diabolical plot. Is it the deep state of mask-makers?

    Sad to see this among pilots. Imagine if we based our aerial decisions on rumors we heard on the internet. “Short Final” would get a lot longer, wouldn’t it?

  9. Count me as a Paul Bertorelli fan–as pilot for 59 years, Aviation Consumer subscriber almost from the start, collector of most popular flying magazines since the early 1960s, and author of more than 400 monthly columns for regional aviation magazine, he usually brings wit, insight, and knowledge to his writing.

    This isn’t about Paul’s position–it’s about the right of the airlines (or any business owner) to protect their property, their business, and their public image by doing what they can to protect their customers. If they want to enforce a mask policy, passengers are free to choose airlines that do not. That’s the American way–(or at least it USED to be.). Let the marketplace prevail–“The invisible hand of Adam Smith”, as they used to teach in school. If the passengers WANT masks, they will choose that airline–if not, they will choose another.

    Do masks work? Like so many thing in life, yes and no. They do NOT give 100% protection, but they DO give partial protection–when used correctly. Mask makers suggest that they be washed after every use–I don’t believe most people do that. They must also be used correctly–how many times have you seen masks or bandannas loose enough to not be effective? Even doctors and dentists often use plastic face shields–like masks, they protect against sneezing, coughing, and spittle–but not 100%. We use them in our flight school for those that want them–they don’t interfere with boom microphones for intercom or radio work. Are face shields and masks 100% effective? No–but they are better than nothing.

    Personally, I avoid a mask whenever possible. In Minnesota, our Governor has issued mask decrees so onerous that even members of his own party have pushed back, as Minnesota has a higher rate of infection than any of the surrounding massless States. I believe that infection rates have much more to do with population density in large cities than it does with masks themselves. I live in a county that has had less than a dozen infections and no deaths since the start of Covid. I respond to the Governor’s edict by avoiding stores or public places that require them–including airlines–but I’m careful to avoid crowded places. In aviation, I don’t wear a mask on the King Air I fly, but the passengers are free to do so if they wish–or not–or to avoid flying.

    Like the masks themselves, the mask edicts are “one size fits all”. We know that doesn’t work with any product.

  10. [not for publication]
    If it weren’t the final sentence in Paul’s essay, I’d let this typo slide: Shouldn’t that sentence read, “Arguing about masks _is_ hardly a ripple in the pond.”?

  11. Interesting that the photo shows operator error on mask wearers. Definitely no marginal improvement with a mask if it isn’t covering your nose! Personally if I am crazy enough to fly with people like that, I will throw out the idea that their mask is protecting me and instead wear my KN95 that I know from years of experience can keep the bad fumes and carcinogens out. Might just help with a virus too. Meanwhile my GA plane seems like the mode I will prefer for domestic travel. It has no hepa filter but a ton of ventilation!

    • “Definitely no marginal improvement with a mask if it isn’t covering your nose! ”

      Is that really the case, though? I can see if someone sneezes that not having a mask covering their nose would reduce the effectiveness of a mask, but how much does it matter when one is simply breathing? In other words, what is the difference in effectiveness of preventing the spread of covid between wearing a standard cloth mask (as opposed to an N95 or better mask) over both the mouth and nose vs over just the mouth? If it makes a big difference, then it seems the airlines strictly enforcing the mask rule should also strictly enforce proper use of them.

  12. Paul, I’m surprised you aren’t being more of a cynic on the Covid topic. You usually seem to offer a skeptic’s view on things, or at least remain neutral with data. Pretty clear where you stand on this issue.

    • When the overwhelming scientific evidence points towards an outcome and you still don’t believe it, it’s denial not skepticism. Sure scientists are still learning about this virus and of course there are outliers. But if the overwhelming majority of virologists (not politicians or pundits) say that masks will help, then I’m going to wear a mask.

  13. I didn’t wear a mask until forced to by my employer. I’d already had the Covid 19, probably, by virtue of flying a bunch of Hawaii trips in late Feb/early March when 100’s of thousands of Chinese fled from China to the US through the chain, but I can’t say for sure because then there were no tests available. As an essential worker, I continued to fly trips and then in June my airline said we as pilots had to wear masks to keep the passengers feeling safe. Not medically being safe. Big difference.
    Grow a spine?
    Well, more like conform is what I have to say to Mr. Author.
    Protect your liberties.

    • Quick question, Chris M , do you wear the mask after the cockpit door is closed and fly the trip with it on? My charter company wants us to wear masks when greeting pax which I do except when lugging 50+lb luggage to the baggage compartment, but once the cabin door is closed our company leaves it up to to the flight crews. I know of no other company crew member using a mask when flying and I do not and will not either. I have had no complaints from pax or my FO’s. We have had one crew member exposed from a pax but tested negative. My company does take other measures to minimize any exposure, including avoiding airlining crews and overnights as much as possible.

    • I just don’t get this “liberties” thing. How about I decide that by requiring me to wear pants it’s taking away my liberties? It’s just a bit of cloth! Who am I protecting by wearing them? It’s all political! I’d like to see someone try that and see how far they get past the security checkpoint.

  14. Thanks Paul for trying to educate people in a thoughtful, effective, rational, way…proven policies that when properly implemented has demonstrated over and over again will dramatically slow infection rates. Masks without social distancing, without good hygiene is still better than no mask. Airline travel automatically makes social distancing impossible and personal hygiene opportunities more limited. So, several airlines have made compliance to these prudent company policies a stipulation for flying on them.

    You don’t want to put your seat belt on in my Bonanza, you cannot fly with me. My airplane, my rules. Find seat belts too uncomfortable, or a restriction upon your “civil rights”, I am sure there is a YouTube video showing all the “dangers” of being strapped in vs the “safety” being bounced around or ejected from the cabin during a crash sequence, heavy brake application, or turbulence.

    Even today, a significant portion of the daily drivers still don’t believe in seat belt usage in spite of decades of tests, stats, and the law of physics demonstrating the life saving value of seat belts. Not 100% guarantee you will always survive a crash. But proven to be extremely effective for those who use them on every flight or every drive.

    Yet, we have those who claim seat belts too uncomfortable, too restrictive, whose laws have eroded their freedom to be a human projectile when whatever they are riding in stops and they don’t. And of course, there is a litany of first responders who have to administer the first aid in spite of all the gore, transport the former human projectile to the next stage of injury mitigation, and the process repeats itself through a series of lifesaving events adding time and expense affecting a whole lot of people besides the one, intentionally belt-less accident victim.

    I find so many making similar arguments for non-compliance in doing what is minimally required to offer the best opportunity minimizing getting or giving the gift that keeps on giving pre Covid-19 vaccine. Adhering to these very basic, inexpensive policies is not difficult. Inconvenient maybe, but not difficult. If wearing a mask is too difficult, then you need to find a way to get to your destination on your terms. But if someone else is providing the transportation, it’s on their terms, not yours. You buying the gas for a flight around the patch in my airplane does not give you some “right” to fly with me without the seat belt securely fastened. Even if you don’t believe in them, even if you have “proof” to support your position in the lack of seat belt usage.

    A significant source of Covid-19 viral shedding comes from the human thermal affect. The heat and humidity normally radiated from a human being, particularly from the head, also sends up a thermal of Covid-19 viruses not only outward from breathing, speaking, and coughing but upward from body heat/moisture. Airliners circulate the air from the ceiling downward. In that natural clash of upward and outward movement of the Covid-19 virus with the downward flow of cabin air, it causes the rapid and complete circulation of the virus throughout the cabin before ejection and filtration. Several studies dating back over 20 years ago with the FAA has demonstrated those physics when investigating flu transmission on airliners. Covid-19 infections can be mild or asymptomatic for those experiencing a low viral load. But for those who exposed to a high viral load, they become more ill. This is why masking, as crude as it may be, has proven to lower the viral load. And that viral load you absorb will one of several determining factors of how well you fare after infection. These airline cabin and building physics explain well why the huge surge of infections shorty after restaurant and bars opened, airline travel started to pick up, including any service or work that puts folks in close quarters inside buildings that move, circulate a lot of air via the HVAC systems. When is the last time you saw a modern office building, skyscraper, school, factory, hospital, restaurant, or hotel with opening windows?

    Until there is a proven, effective, safe vaccine, I am not flying on an airliner. But for those who do, there is a significant improvement in cabin comfort, that being from airlines doing their best to promote social distancing via no occupancy of the middle seat. Seems to me a far better trade off wearing a mask and not shoulder to shoulder with a stranger sitting closer to you than if you were in the cabin of a C150.

    Of course, you may have chosen an airline who doesn’t care about social distancing, nor masks, allowing you the good ol’ days of pre-Covid-19 fun being shoulder to shoulder, face to face, with a stranger couped up in a seat that makes a Luscombe seem spacious…who maybe, or maybe not Covid-19 infectious. Talk about gambling in the friendly skies. And you actually paid money for that gamble with friendliness in such close quarters. I hope that trip was worth it.

    • Well that was fascinating.

      Just yesterday, I heard an “expert” assert that perspiration – even in the form of full-contact sweat-sharing – is NOT a transmission mechanism for Covid-19.
      Who/what to believe? Credibility is scarcer than unicorn farts, these days.

      Disclaimer: I DO wear a mask when out in public.

  15. I’ll wear a mask when I go to the grocery store or any retail outlet that requires it… no problem for me, however I’ll refrain from flying commercially until a medical solution has been found since being in an enclosed aluminum tube hours on end, even in the best of times, can be a trying event.

    I am somewhat surprised that the folks lamenting wearing of masks have not complained about the billions in bailout of airlines and their pilots getting paid to sit around. The after affect on the taxpayer because of this largess may be felt well after the virus is tamed.

  16. The current government discussion on extending the CARES act bailout does not make me very happy at all. This issue kind of fits in with the Dan Reed article I pointed out to earlier. Unfortunately, we will all pay for it whether it be a government handout of taxpayer money or funding the inevitable increase for unemployment benefits for those who lose their job.

  17. Airline mask enforcement policy is PR grand standing as long as airlines offer food and drinks onboard. Nobody is wearing a mask while eating and drinking – with the blessing of the airline.

    Paul, no study has shown mask effectiveness when they are not worn continuously or worn improperly. To cite a study in medical environments where masks have fabrication standards and people are educated about their usage as a proof of mask effectiveness in the public is a stretch. I am not anti-mask but I am anti-misinformation. I think that the “trust us, put something on your face and everything will be good” mantra is not only misleading, it is dangerous.

    Having appropriate physical distance between airline passengers is a key aspect of restricting spread of contagious diseases on flights. People get that. Spotting a Covid 19 express airline is easy, just read the fine print – no physical distancing provided onboard. Passengers who care about their health and have-to fly are flocking to airlines that block some seats or chartering airplanes.

    • You haven’t been paying attention if you think all the mask research has been done among HCWs or in medical environments. Increasingly, retrospective analysis of open populations wearing masks show a strong correlation between mask usage and transmission rate. It has been shown in Japan, in Taiwan, in Vietnam and in Hong Kong.

      This research is weakened by not having randomized control arms, but that doesn’t render it not credible. It’s also true that some countries–New Zealand– have succeeded in covid suppression without a strong mask policy. There is no bulletproof approach, but a choices among many combinations. As for continuous use, more research suggests that initial dosage affects the seriousness of the infection. Dose+time=infection. The less the exposure, however it’s done, probably the better.

      It may be PR grandstanding, but entering an airliner cabin with no mitigation makes little sense.

      • Paul, I was referring to the study “Association Between Universal Masking in a Health Care System and SARS-CoV-2 Positivity Among Health Care Workers” that you provided as “evidence” that masks work. We have known that medical masks manufactured under strict standards used by people properly trained to handle them were effective long before Covid showed up. That does not mean that masks with no manufacturing standards worn by the public are also effective.

        For every study that show that masks worn by the public are effective, there are just as many that show that they are not. That’s why masks are not and should not be presented as an effective barrier. As far as we actually know, they “might” help. I personally do not have a problem wearing a mask because whatever “might help” is fine by me. However, I do so with a grain a salt not confidence.

        I wish other would too because the least exposure is indeed the best mitigation when dealing with a contagious disease. Physical distancing has proven to significantly decrease exposure – with or without masks. That is why strict confinement works when everything else fails.

        Sitting 18 inches away from a fellow passenger munching on delicious airline food or sipping on their morning coffee (without a mask of course) is not even remotely reasonable during a pandemic. The majority gets it and will not get onboard airlines that tell them otherwise – no matter how many PR dollars are used to spin that good air, cleaning between flights, and masks are enough to make flying on an airline “safe”. The market is speaking. It is time for the airlines who want to survive to listen and adapt.

    • “I think that the “trust us, put something on your face and everything will be good” mantra is not only misleading, it is dangerous.”

      But no credible health professional is saying that “everything will be good.” The talking heads on some news channels may be claiming that, but all the *credible* advice is saying masks will help, but only in addition to social distancing, avoiding indoor spaces and crowds, etc.

      It seems there are extremists that use edge-cases to justify normal behavior. Masks aren’t a perfect solution? Then they shouldn’t be worn at all. I heard of someone killed while wearing a seatbelt? I will never wear one again.

  18. ‘It may be PR grandstanding, but entering an airliner cabin with no mitigation makes little sense.”

    If it’s common sense that’s implied, the biggest problem with ordinary, run-of-the-mill common sense is that it falls prey to the clearly defined limits of personal experience, which, for most people, is very limited.

    “I think that the “trust us, put something on your face and everything will be good” mantra is not only misleading, it is dangerous.”

    This is a perfect example of that limitation.

  19. This certainly is a “hot-button” topic! I can’t believe how many are letting your civil rights and liberties be pulled right out from under you. This mask BS reeks of politics especially since wearing a mask is like using a chain link fence to keep out mosquitoes. Come on Paul, stop living in fear!