More than three-quarters of air passengers support continued face mask rules and want anti-maskers punished for failing to mask up amidst a resurgence in COVID-19 driven by fast-spreading Delta variant.
The poll of nearly 5,000 travellers in 11 countries revealed that 83 per cent of air passengers are happy to continue wearing face masks in airports and onboard planes for the near-term, while 86 per cent believe there should be “strict enforcement” of the rules.
Despite widespread support for public health measures like mask-wearing onboard planes, there has been a violent surge in disruptive passenger behaviour caused by pandemic-related rules like mask mandates and some lawmakers in the United States are fighting to end public transport mask rules early.
On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed it had received at least 2,605 unruly passenger reports connected with refusal to wear a face mask properly. Disruptive passenger incidents have surged 500 per cent since January compared to 2019, driven mainly by mask-related incidents and alcohol-fueled misbehaviour.
“Air travelers recognize and value the safety measures put in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during air travel,” commented Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Travel Association (IATA) which commissioned the poll.
But Walsh warned that travellers don’t want mask rules to remain in place forever.
Airlines in England have become the first to decide whether they should keep mask rules after the government dropped official mask laws on Monday. Every airline based in the country has kept its face mask rules in place despite the fact that it is no longer legally enforceable.
In a statement, British Airways said it would keep face mask rules in place in order to “protect travellers, provide reassurance and boost customer confidence”.
The likes of easyJet, Ryanair, TUI, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic will also keep face mask rules in place for the foreseeable future. They might ease face mask rules once infection rates start falling and other countries roll back their own face mask mandates.
U.S.-based airlines will also have to make a similar decision in September when the federal face mask mandate ends. Flight attendant unions have called for face mask rules to remain in place in order to combat the Delta variant although airline executives have been tight-lipped about the prospect of allowing passengers to fly bare-faced.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.