US Airlines are apparently walking back a newly implemented policy requiring all passengers to wear face masks. Just this month, several domestic carriers announced travelers would have to adhere to the COVID-19 preventive measure, or would not be able to travel. CNN, however, obtained internal documents from at least one airline saying the rule was not enforceable. That has travelers taking to social media to vent their anger over the airlines’ laissez-faire approach to passenger safety.
It’s Already Happening
One passenger detailed on Twitter flying from Florida to Pennsvylavia with ten other passengers not wearing masks. “Almost half the flight complained and everyone was pissed off but guess what? The people who didn’t have one on still didn’t one on,” she tweeted. A Southwest customer also shared his frustration over his cancer patient spouse being needlessly put at risk by a flight crew not enforcing the ban.
You are not enforcing this AT ALL about 10 people SURROUNDING ME on my flight from FL to philly just now did not have a mask on. Almost half the flight complained and everyone was pissed off but guess what the people who didn’t have one on still didn’t put one on.
— D-Mow❂ૐ (@daniellealicia7) May 13, 2020
. . . If @SouthwestAir is not going to protect a customer of 43 years and a cancer patient, what does that say about the airline? Fallen a long way since 1977.
— Joel Brandenberger (@JBatNTF) May 13, 2020
The measures were initially put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, an infectious disease responsible for at least 80,000 Americans deaths. The respiratory infection is spread through coughing or sneezing. And face masks, along with over preventative measures such as washing your hands and not touching your face, help reduce the contagions ability to find new hosts. A larger number of COVID-19 carriers are asymptomatic, which is why it’s important everyone wears a face mask, especially while around others.
The Blame Game
By announcing the policy and failing to enforce it, airlines are taking a huge gamble. Who is responsible if an outbreak occurs on a plane? Are infected passengers not following the rules? Negligent executives? The United States government? While airlines can “require” passengers to adhere to policies, without federal regulation or mandate from the FAA, commercial aircraft are not diverting because passengers decide to remove their masks after take off. So what is the answer?
Passing The Buck
“If for some reason this policy causes a disturbance on board, we’ve counseled our flight attendants to use their de-escalation skills, and they do have the flexibility to re-seat customers on the aircraft as needed,” United Airlines spokeswoman Nicole Carriere said.
Hopefully, that passenger doesn’t end up seated next to you or me on that flight.