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Turns Out Wearing Masks On Flights Might Be Optional?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Airlines, protective masks, and social distancing have been very much in the news recently. Travelers complained of full flights — including at least one with some passengers not donning masks.

Most airlines — and several airports — announced mask-wearing requirements for all travelers.

But a highly-publicized, Reuters investigative report said the “top three U.S. airlines have told their flight attendants not to force passengers to comply with their new policy requiring face coverings, just encourage them to do so.”

So the rules aren’t really rules, are they?

A Tough Policy to Enforce?

According to the report, American, Delta, and United “told employees that they may deny boarding at the gate to anyone not wearing a face covering, and are providing masks to passengers who do not have them.”

But when people step foot on the plane, that’s when the mask requirement becomes an encouragement.

“Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy,” American told its pilots in a message seen by Reuters explaining its policy, which went into effect on Monday.

“If the customer chooses not to comply for other reasons, please encourage them to comply, but do not escalate further,” American told flight attendants in a message on Friday that it provided to Reuters.

“Likewise, if a customer is frustrated by another customer’s lack of face covering, please use situational awareness to de-escalate the situation,” it said.

It’s somewhat reminiscent of this situation that recently occurred during which a flight attendant had to use his de-escalation skills.

Television Doctor Wore a Mask During Flight – Still Got Coronavirus

Here’s one the anti-mask crowd will love.

NBC News’ virologist Dr. Joseph Fair revealed that he contracted COVID-19 — possibly during a New Orleans to New York flight.

NBC News reports the “airline did not enforce social distancing measures.”

“I had a mask, I had gloves on, I did … my normal wipe-down,” Dr. Fair said, “but you can still get (COVID-19) through your eyes … I was seated right next to someone. The flight was full.”

And, of course, we received conflicting information: masks probably won’t help — but then a few weeks later, everyone must wear one because masks do work(?). (Frankly, I think the “masks don’t help” argument was a ploy to not get people to load up on N95 masks and other PPE needed for medical workers. That worked well, huh?)

Still Wise to Wear a Mask

As long as the rules are in effect, I think it’s still best to wear a mask. And that’s if you must travel at all.

Flight attendants are put in an ugly position here. Some people will be militant about not wearing masks — and that will certainly cause commotion flight attendants have to de-escalate.

Because masks very likely slow the spread of COVID-19 and add an extra layer of protection, I think it’s still prudent to follow the airliners’ rules requests — and wear one.

— Chris

Featured image: ©iStock.com/Maria Argutinskaya

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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9 Comments

  1. Wearing a mask is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect others from any coughing, sneezing, etc. that you may do. Wearing a task is about being a team player. It’s about not infecting others if you happen to be one of those who are asymptomatic

    To protect yourself you’d need a face shield and N95 mask at a minimum. No one is asking people to do that.

  2. There are plenty of very real reasons why someone may not be wearing a mask-the self proclaimed mask police need to remember that. For some people w/underlying lung problems, rebreathing CO2 that gets trapped in the mask is a significant risk. Those who require O2 support regularly also shouldn’t be wearing masks. Those wearing them but doing so incorrectly are actually likely to be doing more harm than good. If someone not wearing a mask is that scary to you personally, and you are unwilling/unable to remember there could be a very valid reason as to why, then don’t engage w/the maskless person.

  3. Chris, the article says the dr tested negative for covid 4 times. How can he say he has coronavirus then? I think it’s also interesting how he told his dr NOT to be intubated. There must be some truth to ventilators aren’t recommended.

    • False negatives certainly aren’t unheard-of, so maybe that’s why he tested negative? (Though, yes, 4X seems a little funky.)

      As for the ventilators, a doctor caring for a family member of mine with COVID-19 highly recommended against a ventilator — saying he wouldn’t treat one of his own family members with one. (Said family member subsequently died, so we’ll never know if one would’ve helped or not.)

      • Once you are on a ventilator it is hard to get off. That must be why he chose that route? Or he has his own personal end of life care choices. But ventilators are not a cure by any means.

  4. Chris,

    My sympathy for the loss of your family member.

    Regarding the masks, I just returned home from stops to buy plants and a couple groceries. This is our first really warm and humid day and I can tell you for an eyeglass wearer, the mask means constant fogging of your glasses to the point I could barely see. I can’t imagine wearing that mask for hours today. I know high humidity is not usually a problem on an airplane but just thought I’d throw that in there now that the weather is warming up. Plus, I am certainly no doctor, but wouldn’t the buildup of humidity inside the mask turn into a breeding ground for germs? Food for thought I guess.

    • Thanks, RoloT.

      Not sure about glasses being breeding grounds for germs — my guess is yes. (I’m not a doctor, but I watch people play them on television). I’m a fellow glasses wearer and know the inconvenience of the fogged-up lenses while wearing a mask.

  5. I do understand that there are false negatives but as you said, testing negative 4 times, then claiming you have it, doesn’t pass the smell test. He likely didn’t have Covid. He also admits that he went to the grocery store once when he got home to NOLA. Who knows IF he had it where he got it from.

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