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Ten Airline Chiefs Plead With POTUS For Federal Face Mask Mandate to be Consigned to History

Ten Airline Chiefs Plead With POTUS For Federal Face Mask Mandate to be Consigned to History

The chief executives of ten U.S.-based airlines including American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines have formally written to President Joe Biden asking for the federal face mask mandate to be consigned to the history books because it no longer “makes sense” when people are allowed mask-free in other crowded indoor environments.

The letter marks the first time that airlines have challenged the mandate in such an open manner.  Last December, Southwest’s outgoing chief executive was heavily criticised after he suggested that face masks on airplanes “don’t add much” to the already safe environment.

“The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, as demonstrated by the recently released CDC framework indicating that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors,” the joint letter sent on behalf of the chief executives by the industry lobby group Airlines for America reads.

Several studies, the letter adds, “have concluded that an airplane cabin is one of the safest indoor environments due to the combination of highly filtered air and constant air flow coupled with the downward direction of the air”.

The industry pointed to England where mask mandates have been lifted in all indoor environments including public transport.  In other countries, masking mandates are quickly being dropped with the exception of public transport.

Four British airlines have now dropped inflight masking mandates, although it remains too early to tell whether COVID-19 cases have risen as a result.

“Importantly, the effectiveness and availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to wear them gives passengers the ability to further protect themselves if they choose to do so,” the chief executives, which includes Delta’s Ed Bastian and American’s Doug Parker, referencing Biden’s push for quality N95 masks to be made available to the American people.

“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do,” the letter continued.

Although the airlines still plan to enforce the mandate, they urged Biden to consider the impact that this was having on airline staff.  According to the latest FAA stats, two-thirds of all unruly passenger incidents are connected to the mask mandate.

In addition, the letter, which was also signed by chief executives from Alaska, Hawaiian JetBlue, and Southwest, demanded the end of pre-departure testing for people traveling to the United States.

The industry claims people are scared of traveling internationally because they might then be stranded overseas should they test positive for COVID-19.  A slew of countries have dropped pre-departure testing rules, including the United Kingdom and most recently Canada.

On Wednesday, however, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Rochelle Walensky, said the agency was ready to add “additional layers” of restrictions should the BA.2 Omicron sub-variant cause a spike in hospitalizations.

Such a move could dash hopes that the mandate will expire as scheduled on April 18.

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