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Will Air Carriers Require Surgical Masks Before the Pandemic Ends?

Although the U.S. is sticking with a national face covering mandate for all public transportation through January 2022, will the requirements for those coverings increase? Some airlines are requiring passengers to wear N95 face coverings aboard aircraft, though there is no indication that same demand will come to American carriers.

If you are planning to board an aircraft in the United States, you will need to wear a face covering to get to your destination. While the requirements have been broad, could they get stricter before the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end? The Washington Post reports several European airlines are increasing their requirements for what type of face coverings passengers must wear.

At Least Five European Carriers Require N95 Masks

Currently, five European carriers are requiring passengers to wear a face mask or filtering respirator which confirms to the international N95 standard: Air France, Croatia Airlines, Finnair, Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines. Their justification for setting the high standard is based on passenger health standards, in the hopes that the increased requirements will prevent transmission between passengers.

However, the same ideas have not necessarily arrived with U.S.-based carriers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, appropriate face coverings should be made of two or more layers of washable and breathable fabric and should fit snugly over the nose and mouth. Not all masks qualify, as one United Airlines flyer learned when they attempted to board with a full-face cover.

Currently, organizations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airlines for America have not published an opinion on whether airlines should adopt stricter requirements for face coverings. In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for the IATA noted wearing face masks reduce aerosols but are leaving the specific face covering requirements for the airlines to determine.

Some health experts disagree with that assessment, saying there should be a distinct standard for face coverings on aircraft. By creating a single standard, they argue airlines can prevent flyers from boarding with thin masks made of bandanas or gaiters which may not block aerosols as well as multi-layer cloth or N95 coverings. As it stands today, each U.S.-based carrier has their own rules for which masks are allowed to fly, with some variation between policies.

Airlines Say Face Coverings and Cabin Air Circulation Reduces Disease Spread

Several studies sponsored by or with the participation of airlines suggests that the combination of air circulation and face coverings – either cloth or surgical grade – are enough to reduce the risk of viral spread aboard aircraft. This theory has been called into question several times, most notably when a study of a flight to New Zealand found evidence of potential spread between passengers.

DMIND00 September 10, 2021

Well it is the airlines who have brought the COVID19 and its variants to the USA and will continue to do so. So we can thank the airlines for this. It is sick people traveling. Also their statement that the air is changed ever y 2 to 4 minutes. Are their return vents at every seat. No so while it may sound good 2 minutes is a long time to not have air changed, especially if you are sitting by someone for any length of time. You will breath their air. How else do you think the COVID19 and variants got to the USA?

PaulMSN September 9, 2021

azmojo, let's see some backup for your claims. All I see is your own opinion. All masks, unless sealed to your face, will leak a little, and I doubt there is a point where they become totally ineffective, as long as they cover your mouth and nose. Your 3% is entirely made up.

fastpiper September 9, 2021

They lied again. Said get the vax…ditch the mask.

BMGRAHAM September 9, 2021

There should be no masks for vaccinated passengers. COVID isn't going to go away, the chances of serious sickness or death for a vaccinated person are no more than the chances of serious sickness or death from other causes. It's time to learn to live with this virus.

bloomz September 8, 2021

Tell that to the stewardesses that have to wear them for 12-14 hours at a time. Nothing insane about it. But I totally agree about the jab, if no, stay the f off airplanes, and everywhere else for that matter.