Respect flight attendants: Lift airline mask mandates now

By tippinsights Editorial Board: Tipp Insights

When Oregon – yes, Oregon – announced that it would relax mask mandates, it marked a seminal moment in the chapter on Covid-era restrictions. A state that gave President Joe Biden a 16-point victory margin (five points higher than Hillary in 2016) is about as liberal as they come. Portland hosted B.L.M. protests, which often turned violent, for nearly a year – longer than any other metro area in the country.

Forty-seven other states and territories have announced the lifting of indoor mask mandates, but Washington remains committed to yesteryear policies. In its infinite wisdom scattered across several agencies, it has insisted on mask mandates for all public travel. It is illegal for travelers to remove their masks in airport concourses, bus stations, or on planes, trains, and buses.

During a hearing on airline oversight in December, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that the air in passenger jets’ cabins is so clean that face masks “don’t add much” additional protection against the spread of COVID-19 on planes. “The statistics, I recall, is that 99.97 percent of airborne pathogens are captured by the HEPA [high-efficiency particulate air] filtering system, and it’s turned over every two or three minutes.” “I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin,” he said. “The environment is very safe, very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker also concurred, “aircraft is the safest place you can be.”

Unfortunately, airline mask mandates have become a severe safety issue – not the Covid kind – but the physical assault variety. This is what happens when federal bureaucrats sit behind safe desks and give out orders without weighing outcomes. The F.A.A. reported more than 4,500 passenger incidents related to mask mandates in 2021 and early 2022 alone.

On Jan 21, an American Airlines wide-body, an hour or so into its flight from Miami to London, returned to Miami because one passenger refused to wear a mask. Two weeks before, a Delta Airlines flight from Dublin to New York had a similar incident when crew members were forced to get another unruly passenger under control. We wonder why U.S. marshals on board did not quickly defuse both situations. If both flights did not have marshals on board, that raises a new safety question. Have we already forgotten 9/11?

It is bizarre for an administration that cares about the labor vote to expect flight attendants to enforce its mask mandate policy but provide them with no teeth. Rules without proper enforcement are congenitally designed to fail. No municipality will ever send out an unarmed police officer to enforce traffic laws – one never knows what kind of crazy character the officer may encounter during a traffic stop in the middle of the night.

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