Face Masks on Planes and Some Problems of Enforcement

By Valery Collins | June 20, 2020

The debate is over.  The World Health Organisation has declared that face masks do offer protection during the coronavirus pandemic.  Airlines agree, especially as it is an easy alternative to social distancing on planes.  But, some my need persuasion.

The Requirement to Wear Face Masks while Flying

Children Wearing Face Masks Credit: EasyJet

It is now a legal requirement in most countries to wear a face covering inside an aeroplane.  The advice to passengers is to wear face masks from the time they first enter the terminal building until the end of their journey.  Most airlines are providing masks for their passengers.  There are exceptions on medical grounds and very young children.  It seems straightforward on paper but in practice enforcement has proved to be difficult, particularly in America.

Enforcement of Face Masks by American Airlines

Initially the major American Airlines announced that wearing a face mask was mandatory on flights.  But it was  clear from newspaper reports that it was not being enforced.  Airline crews were instructed to inform and encourage their passengers but not to insist if the situation was likely to get out of hand while the plane was in the air.  This attitude has now changed.  Recently, a passenger was removed from an American Airlines plane for refusing to wear a mask.  The only reason he could gave for this refusal was, “my body, my choice.”

Allegiant Flight Takes Off Credit: Allegiant

American Airlines has promised to “deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering.” The passenger is now banned from the airline for as long as face coverings are required.  Despite this good news there is also the disturbing revelation that one American airline is not enforcing the requirement to wear masks.   The low cast carrier, Allegiant Air, does not require their passengers to wear face masks.  But, they provide each passenger with a face mask and encourage them to wear masks but do not enforce them to do so.  There does not appear to be any logic to this policy but at least their passengers know in advance that they cannot expect the person sitting next to them to be wearing a mask.

Passengers flying with Garuda Indonesia have complained because the flight attendants are wearing face masks.

Garuda Indonesia Cabin Crew Will Stop Wearing Face Masks

Garuda Indonesia Flight Attendant: Garuda Indonesia

 Passengers flying with Garuda Indonesia have complained because they cannot see if the flight attendants are smiling at them.  The Garuda CEO thinks flying should be a pleasure and passengers should not feel as though they are in a hospital.  So, the airline plans to phase out face masks for flight attendants and replace them with face shields.  The CEO concluded his announcement by saying everyone on board should feel comfortable but safe.  All passengers would be happy if this was the case on every airline.

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