Outgoing American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker has confirmed in an internal question and answer session that the carrier’s face mask policy will be abolished once the federal fact mask mandate is rescinded.
The federal mandate was recently extended through April 18 but many industry insiders aren’t expecting a further extension past this date. There is, however, uncertainty as to how much impact the fast-spreading BA.2 Omicron variant could have on the United States and that might necessitate yet another extension.
In Parker’s eyes, though, American Airlines is simply waiting for the feds to lift the mandate. Whenever that comes, face masks will no longer be required for AA passengers or staff in any setting.
American Airlines introduced its own face mask policy way before the federal government made it into a nationwide mandate and at that time AA’s masking policy was actually more stringent than the Biden administration’s mandate.
“I’m looking forward to the day it’s not required anymore too,” Parker said in response to a question about the mask mandate. “I hope that’ll be April 18th, we’ll see. But if it is April 18th, then of course there’s no requirement.”
“This isn’t a company policy, we’re following a mandate. So this is the first time I’ve done this in a while that I’m not wearing a mask. We don’t have masks required in buildings anymore in America. We won’t have masks required at American for our customers or our flight attendants or our employees.”
Parker was recently forced to issue an apology and clarification after appearing to suggest that masking does little to make the airplane cabin environment any safer than it already is.
That point was actually made by Gary Kelly, the now-retired former chief executive of Southwest Airlines. Parker, however, appeared to agree with Kelly with a simple two-word reply: “I concur”.
Parker clarified that AA supported the mandate and would continue enforcing it.
“We look forward to the day when there will be no federal mask mandate for air travel, because that will mean the pandemic is behind us. But today is not that day,” he said last December.
There is just one small problem to Parker’s claim about the mandate. It won’t actually be his decision to make. By the time the federal mandate finishes, Parker will have retired and Robert Isom will have stepped into his shoes.
Parker, though, is “certain” that Isom has the same opinion. When the federal face mask mandate is lifted, face masks will be optional on AA.
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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.