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Air Transport Group Says Face Mask Rules Have Legal Precedence

Air Transport Group Says Face Mask Rules Have Legal Precedence
Joe Cortez

A major air transportation group says airlines are in the right for mandating all flyers wear a face covering, based on the law and airlines’ conditions of carriage. The International Air Transportation Association says airlines are in the right for removing passengers whose behavior interferes with a flight, or make others uncomfortable.

Despite threats of lawsuits and accusations of civil liberty violations, a major aviation trade group says airlines have legal ground in forcing flyers to wear face coverings when aboard their operated aircraft during the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Air Travel Association (IATA) is asking all flyers to wear a covering of the mouth and face while aboard a flight, while denouncing those who are disrupting flights and refuse to wear one.

Face Mask Rules Covered by Airlines’ Conditions of Carriage

“IATA is emphasizing the need for passengers to comply with the recommendation following recent reports of travelers refusing to wear a face covering during a flight,” the trade group said in a press release. “While this is confined to a very small number of individuals, some on-board incidents have become violent, resulting in costly and extremely inconvenient diversions to offload these passengers.”

The incidents have been numerous, and in many cases is documented on social media. On Aug. 17, 2020, a fight broke out aboard an American Airlines aircraft prior to takeoff when a passenger was confronted about not wearing a face covering. American said the passenger was escorted off the flight. More recently, former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill – who claims he allegedly shot Osama Bin Laden – was banned from flying Delta Air Lines when he posted a picture to Twitter of himself on the flight without a mask. That photo was later deleted from his account.

According to the IATA, airlines have the legal right to refuse service to those who do not comply with face mask rules. Because an airplane ticket is a contract with the airline under their conditions of carriage, the airline has the right to remove and ban flyers who will not wear a covering.

“Those conditions can include the airline’s right to refuse carriage to a person whose behavior interferes with a flight, violates government regulations or causes other passengers to feel unsafe,” the trade organization notes. “Airlines also highlight the need to wear a face covering during the booking process, at check-in, at the gate and in onboard announcements.”

Legalities notwithstanding, the trade group is asking all passengers to simply agree to wear a face mask without incident. Citing tests run by the University of Edinburgh, face coverings that are properly warn can prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus from the mouth by up to 90 percent.

“The research we have seen to date, and our own investigations with the world’s airlines, tell us that the risk of catching COVID-19 on a flight remains very low. There appears to be a number of factors supporting that,” Dr. David Powell, medical advisor for the IATA, said in the press release. “The high flow rate of cabin air from top to bottom, constant filtering of air through state-of-the-art HEPA filters, the fact that all seats face the same direction and of course wearing a face covering and sanitization of the aircraft all play a part.”

More Carriers Adopt “Zero Tolerance” On Face Mask Non-Compliance

The plea from the IATA comes as more airlines are tightening their face covering rules. Lufthansa is now requiring all flyers to wear a face covering, with the only exception being those who present a note from their doctor and a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken 48 hours or less from their travel date. Alaska Airlines will cancel the itinerary of anyone who refuses to wear a face covering on a flight, while Delta says they have banned over 100 flyers from traveling with the airline – including O’Neill.

View Comments (5)


  1. DeltaFlyer123

    August 27, 2020 at 10:17 am

    Using the “civil liberties” argument, then why can’t the same be used to outlaw traffic laws (red lights, stop signs, etc)? In fact, by that calculus, wouldn’t every law be an infraction on civil liberties? Why is wearing a mask the only target of civil libertarians?

  2. afCAMEO


    August 27, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Mostly because they aren’t civil libertarians. They are people that don’t believe in Covid problems and generally see anything the government recommends as an “infringement on their constitutional rights”. I don’t like wearing a mask, but I do believe in science, and that perhaps there are people more knowledgable than me out there.making those recommendations. It’s easy to say “it’s unconstitutional” but try reading the document before you try to make use of it in your arguments!

  3. JonMST

    August 27, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Sure, a private business can mandate whatever they want. But remember the CDC says masks don’t work, even when worn by trained medical professionals.

    “Although mechanistic studies support the potential effect of hand hygiene or face masks, evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials of these measures did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”

    Masks are a dog and pony show, which ignores hand-to-mouth fecal matter transmission containing live virus. How about banning phones from the potty so people don’t contaminate their phones while on the throne? Oh yes, that would be too difficult to do and would make an actual real difference in stopping the virus spread.

    The CDC does say hand washing works! From the CDC article “Hand hygiene has been proven to prevent many infectious diseases and might be considered a major component in influenza pandemic plans, whether or not it has proven effectiveness against influenza virus transmission, specifically because of its potential to reduce other infections and thereby reduce pressure on healthcare services.”

  4. diburning

    August 27, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    “…face coverings that are properly warn can prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus…”

    I think you meant worn instead of warn.

  5. MRM

    September 2, 2020 at 9:16 am

    @JonMST I agree. That’s why doctors and medical personnel quit wearing masks centuries ago when performing medical procedures – and especially avoided them in times of pandemic or in highly-contagious encounters. 100% correct.

    A private business can enforce many rules within the law if they choose; consumers can choose to do business elsewhere. Therefore, folks that don’t want to wear masks may purchase their own jets, hire their own pilots and pay their own REAL airport fees for jet maintenance/storage too. See? Everyone wins!

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