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US Lawmakers Call for Mandatory Face Masks on Planes

US Lawmakers Call for Mandatory Face Masks on Planes

Although fewer people are flying during the coronavirus, planes are still crowded, making social distancing difficult. In response, democratic lawmakers are calling for federal action to demand that everyone on planes be required to wear face masks.

Currently, it is up to each individual airline whether or not they require their passengers and crew members to wear masks. And, while many airlines require their crew members to wear face masks, only JetBlue and Frontier require their passengers to wear face masks.

On Wednesday, Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar urging them to “immediately issue a rule requiring face masks for all individuals engaged in air travel. In the absence of federal action, different airlines and airports have adopted conflicting policies that will undermine overall public health if they are not unified around a single, strong standard,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, the largest flight attendant union in the United States also sent a letter to the DOT and HHS. Its president, Sara Nelson, told ABC News, “From the airport door to the airplane door, on the airplane, and then back out through the airport, we want people wearing face coverings in all those areas. That is what is recommended by the CDC to the general public when they are out in public, and that is exactly what should be happening in our airports and on our airplanes to help contain the spread of the virus.”

The response to these calls has been varied. The HHS and the DOT have not responded. The FAA said in a statement to ABC News that it is “not a public health agency,” but has lent aviation safety expertise to federal public health authorities. President Donald Trump has said that mandatory masks on planes sounds “like a good idea.”

View Comments (26)


  1. KRSW

    April 30, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    I think we’ll see an increase in medical emergencies due to hypoxia if this goes through. How about we let the medical professionals practice medicine and not politicians?

  2. sfoeuroflyer

    April 30, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    Utter b.s.

  3. Lakeviewsteve

    April 30, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    Good luck getting Elaina Chow to do anything unless there is a kickback for her.

  4. fotographer

    May 1, 2020 at 3:17 am

    of course the 2 senators have the letter D i front of them

  5. 1P

    May 1, 2020 at 4:32 am

    Absolutely useless. Face masks prevent some of your droplets from reaching others, but don’t prevent others’ droplets from reaching you, unless they are surgical masks with proper filters, which most aren’t. Using normal face masks will make people feel safer, but will do little or nothing to actually keep people safe.

  6. anacapamalibu

    May 1, 2020 at 5:28 am

    Should be expanded to nationwide law requiring mandatory requirement to wear face covering in public.

  7. CaptainMiles

    May 1, 2020 at 5:48 am

    They shouldn’t have to urge Azar. They are lawmakers. Write and pass the law.

  8. sanFF

    May 1, 2020 at 6:02 am

    Does that mean no more drinks on board as I would have to remove mask to sip my cocktail?

  9. John Aldeborgh

    May 1, 2020 at 6:12 am

    Why has it taken our lawmakers so long to see the obvious, plus this is only common sense and simply good manners. The international borders should also have been sealed 2 months ago to stop the importation of additional infected people. All airlines should make this a minimum requirement, without the need for legislation.

  10. rundmc

    May 1, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Why is it always democrats ordering social control. (I don’t count Trump – he’ll whipsaw back to something else as soon as anyone points out how useless this policy is). And, why are they always clueless. There is a lot of good science indicating face masks are useless to prevent the spread of microscopic viruses. People can’t hear flight attendants through them. There is no consistency in what face masks are made from – none of them prevent virus spread – and the homemade ones LITERALLY actively spread viruses since no one who makes them/wears them continuously sterilizes them so bacteria grows on them. (It’s like someone wearing underwear they never wash, but on the outside where it can touch everything). And, as others have pointed out – how do you eat and drink without taking them off? Finally, EVERYONE is going to take them off once they go into the bathroom and so will just leave the virus everywhere in the bathroom – either Covid 19 or Covid 1-18 or the flu – if they have it. The only thing this does is give the airlines an “out” for not completely sterilizing planes after every flight.

  11. dliesse

    May 1, 2020 at 10:07 am

    Not advocating either for or against the idea, but if the *lawmakers* want it so badly why don’t they do their jobs and introduce a law? The purpose of the Executive Branch is to implement and enforce laws, not to write them.

  12. jonsail

    May 1, 2020 at 10:27 am

    This is one of several steps I would want before flying again. I would also like to see temperature checks of all boarding passengers and FAs.

  13. txrus

    May 1, 2020 at 10:47 am

    When the CDC made those ‘general public’ statements, they were not envisioning people wearing them for 8,10,12+ hours at a time if from the point of arrival @ the airport until walking out the door on the other end is taken into account, as Sarah Nelson is talking about. And for those of you who love to sleep on your cross-country flights, forget it-can’t do it w/a mask on unless you want to risk suffocation. Once something like this gets put in place, the unions will fight tooth & nail against dropping it. So before anyone starts jumping on the bandwagon, stop & think about what this really means in practice beyond just a socially responsible sound bite.

  14. DCAFly

    May 1, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Elaine Chao won’t do anything unless her husband tells her to (and there is a kickback, as someone else pointed out). If that woman had an original thought, it would die of loneliness.

  15. CaliforniaSteve

    May 1, 2020 at 11:17 am

    I can’t envision wearing a mask from SFO-SIN, a 16+ hour flight, plus 3 hours at the departure airport and another hour at the arrival airport, so a total of 20 hours in a mask, with God knows what protective requirements getting to the departure airport and from the arrival airport. It won’t act to encourage me to fly internationally (which is pretty much what my wife and I limit our plane travel to) any time soon.

  16. LonghornDXB

    May 1, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    Americans should be less selfish, look at China, everyone wears masks there, which is why they don’t catch viruses, oh wait……

  17. TheBarron

    May 1, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    If Mitch’s wife, Elaine C., is involved, it will not happen unless there’s something in it for Mitch or her. End of story

  18. rundmc

    May 1, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    So, let me see – Asian countries are where wearing masks outside basically originated. China being #1. But, it’s because of the terrible pollution there and pollution particles can be protected from with masks – not viruses. Because, let me see – the mask-wearing part of our globe is where SARS, avian flu, swine flu and Covid 1-19 originated and then spread. So, clearly masks don’t do much of anything and may just be exacerbating spread. Also – unfortunately, fluids don’t just come from people’s mouths or nose. If anyone goes #1 in an airplane bathroom (aside from the fact that they’ll likely take the mask off while in there) and don’t close the toilet top while flushing – any virus they may have spreads every where in the air and then wafts through the plane. I also will like to see the first story of a passenger dying because they are having an asthma attack and an overzealous flight attendant won’t let them take the mask down to use their inhaler.

  19. rundmc

    May 1, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Didn’t mean to see “I will like to see the first story of a passenger dying because I’m hoping someone dies.” I meant to say will like to see the reaction when that happens. Hope the airlines are reamed over the coals for taking random thoughts from the CDC which are not based on peer-reviewed studies and making sweeping policy from it without thinking through all the implications and effects. Oh, the lawsuits to come….

  20. CoolTourist

    May 1, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    I see no problem with everyone wearing n95 for the duration of most 2 hour flights. Assuming you can get your hands on it….Eat and drink before departure and you will be fine. If you get short of breath luckily there is oxygen on board… No one will die of hunger in flight.
    For long flights airlines could consider serving food sequentially throughout the cabin. Spacing out service by every third/forth row and so on.
    Temperature checks are ok too, but it’s a late sign of infection and obviously can rule in or rule out Coronavirus.

  21. bobf

    May 1, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    I have no idea if this is a good idea. I have no idea whether any of these comments make any sense (though I have some suspicions). Why does no one include their epidemiology credentials? (I have none.)

  22. Dublin_rfk

    May 1, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    What else could you expect from a couple of mental midgets? Well I suppose that in typical little d form they could have ‘suggested’ that people be paid to wear the masks.

  23. craig44485

    May 1, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Won’t take long for the airlines to figure out a way to monetize this, include it in their FFP status levels. Top tier elites get free N95 masks, lower tier get the plain surgical masks for free, of course you can always pay to upgrade from the standard surgical mask to the N95 masks or use points. No status? You have to pay for your own masks, Pay online in advance will be cheaper than paying at the ticket counter. Certainly each airline will have masks issued to match their livery, as an additional way of advertising.

  24. cmd320

    May 4, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Masks are completely useless. Nothing but safety theatre.

  25. Debrian Travels

    Debrian Travels

    May 5, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Just another thing to make flying miserable. This would make me think twice about flying if a destination were remotely drivable. Right now, while the virus has a higher incidence, I can see some logic behind a TEMPORARY rule. But permanently when this crisis is past? That is a complete overreaction.

    We have largely gone a century without a widescale need for masks in our day to day lives. They are uncomfortable and hot and, for those of us who wear glasses, we have issues with our glasses fogging when wearing them. In fact, since I started wearing one to the grocery store, I find myself touching my face MORE as I feel the need to adjust the mask. Hopefully, this is an idea borne of hysteria that will subside as the pandemic passes into history. (And I too am not shocked that the two senators who suggested this had a D beside their name and were from the northeast part of the country.)

  26. weero


    May 5, 2020 at 11:08 pm

    Goven that masks offer a significant reduction in the infection efficiency, I could live with that.

    But please, please amend it with: no one with a raised temperature and no one who coughs flies. If you have a fever or cough you will be deplaned no matter what medical reason you come up with for it. Coughers are spreaders.

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