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Airlines Still Want Regulations on Face Covering Usage

Airlines Still Want Regulations on Face Covering Usage
Joe Cortez

With the federal government taking a neutral stance on mandating face coverings on public transportation, some airline workers say they still want a legal requirement. Without additional regulations, the workers say they are asked to police behavior with no authority.

As the federal government continues to take a “no regulation” policy on mandating face coverings aboard commercial aircraft (or other forms of public transportation), aviation workers and airport partners say now is the time for public mandates. Skift reports frustration is growing behind the scenes, as airlines continue to operate flights with only their own face mask requirements.

“We Are Like the Police Without the Law to Back Us Up”

Since the Summer of 2020, airlines have slowly introduced face mask requirements as part of their commitment to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Delta was the first airline to create a face covering rule, which was followed closely by other airlines. By July 2020, 25 of the world’s biggest air carriers required passengers to wear face masks when aboard their aircraft.

Although research suggests that face coverings are the best way for people to protect one another from contracting COVID-19, federal authorities would not commit to making it a requirement for boarding a commercial flight. During testimony to the Senate Transportation Committee, Federal Aviation Aviation head Steve Dickson said his agency would “continue to support airlines” and their policies, without making one of their own.

This was further backed up by an October decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Responding to a union petition, the agency said that the current policies are “adequate to address the concerns,” and they did not want to create “more regulations than necessary.” But those working on the front line say without a law, making passengers wear a face covering is still a problem.

“We are like the police without the law to back us up,” one union airline worker speaking under anonymity told Skift.

It’s not just airline workers that are frustrated. In a statement, the president of Airports Council International – North America express concern that with different policies in place across the United States, the “patchwork of requirements” creates inconsistency, which leads to headaches for flyers and aviation workers.

How Airlines Are Requiring Flyers to Cover Faces Aboard Flights

Even without a mandate, airlines are still working hard to safeguard passengers and require flyers to keep a face covering on. To date, over 700 flyers have been banned from flying with the major U.S.-based air carriers for declining to follow their policies. In addition, some experts say the face mask regulations have a legal precedence, because the policies are written into the airlines’ contract of carriage.

However, the policy may not be perfect, as many parents claim it is unfair to toddlers. A growing number of mothers have spoken up about the requirement for everyone two-years-old and above to wear a face covering, claiming its next to impossible to make a toddler wear a face covering.

View Comments (9)


  1. dorn

    October 22, 2020 at 5:26 am

    If your 2yr old can’t be wheedled into wearing a mask, maybe it’s best to not travel until they can, or to make other arrangements for them while you travel, or to drive.

  2. EmAAx

    October 22, 2020 at 6:08 am

    The airlines have this backwards. I’m not flying because of the mask requirement and the on board service reductions.

    Requiring masks isn’t going to get anyone afraid of this virus on planes.

  3. oh912flyer

    October 22, 2020 at 7:12 am

    Here’s why airlines really DON’T want they are asking for. A regulation would mandate face coverings but because of the ADA would require exempting medical conditions. No questions asked. The airlines would have less ability than they have now under regulation. Right now if you violate the requirement (and don’t have a medicatl condition) they can ban you; under a regulation anyone that says they have a medical condition woule be exempted and the airline can’t even ask for any information about it without violating the ADA. Remember, regulations cannot override federal law; so right now the airlines have some leeway, but they will have none if regulated.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the airlines inability to do anything about alleged “service animals” …

  4. oh912flyer

    October 22, 2020 at 7:14 am

    @dorn — come back when you’ve actually raised a toddler…

  5. azmojo

    October 22, 2020 at 8:06 am

    Not sure why they need a regulation, they’ve been really successful so far in deplaning hundreds of passengers.
    And, before any official regulation is made, perhaps we need an official RCT study showing that masks are effective, as there are none that show this as of now.

  6. LuckyStrike

    October 22, 2020 at 8:23 am

    Wait… passenger must comply with crew member instructions. So why additional bureaucracy?

  7. bedelman

    October 22, 2020 at 10:09 am

    LuckyStrike, there is no overarching requirement that passengers must comply with crew member instructions. Some crew make instructions to this effect. As best I can tell they are attempting to summarize 14 CFR § 121.317(k), which requires that “Each passenger shall comply with instructions given him or her by a crewmember regarding compliance with paragraphs (f), (g), (h), and (l) of this section.” If you read the listed paragraphs, you will see that they pertain to specific subjects (seat belts, no smoking signs, smoking in lavatories, and tampering with smoke detectors). I know no regulation requiring that passengers comply with crew instructions on other subjects.

  8. azmojo

    October 23, 2020 at 8:44 am

    BTW, the CDC guidelines expressly state that unconscious people shouldn’t be wearing masks. Many people sleep on flights. I’m not sure you’d want to have legislation that opposes express CDC guidance.

  9. tkelvin69

    October 27, 2020 at 7:04 am

    @azmojo – you apparently haven’t had any medical training. There’s a difference between sleeping and unconscious. Perhaps a good drink service might create that level.

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