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Airline CEO: We’ll Divert Your Flight If Someone Refuses to Wear a Mask

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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.


This could get ugly. An airline CEO said flights will divert if people don’t wear masks.

Frontier Airlines chief Barry Biffle told the Wall Street Journal (reprinted here at Fox News Travel) apropos of passengers wearing masks, “if someone is uncompliant, we will eventually divert an airplane.”

Is That Diversion-Worthy?

We wrote last week several airlines told employees that passenger mask requirements were, essentially, unenforceable guidelines. Basically, wearing a mask is a pre-requisite for boarding the plane.

But once you step foot on the aircraft? That’s when the rules seem to relax.

Young man refuses to wear mask.
(©iStock.com/LightFieldStudios)

According to Reuters, American Airlines told its pilots “’a passenger on board your aircraft who is being compliant with the exception of wearing a face covering is NOT considered disruptive enough to trigger a Threat Level 1 response,’ referring to some kind of intentional disruption by a passenger that could cause the captain to divert the flight.”

But Mr. Biffle and Frontier apparently aren’t messing around.

Look, do I dread wearing a mask the next time I fly? Oh, heck, yes.

(©Chris Carley)

But there are many things in life we dread yet do anyway (pay bills, go to work, visit certain people…). Do I hope that masks eventually won’t be “required”? Of course.

Or maybe airlines hope passengers will pressure “offenders” into donning masks (sort of a social contract) so flights don’t get diverted? An already tense setting — concerned passengers wearing masks — certainly won’t get any calmer when someone(s) refuses to play by the rules.

But here’s where the diversion threat might get interesting:

Want Some Press? Don’t Wear a Mask on Your Flight!

If airlines indeed divert flights because passengers don’t wear masks, I think flight diversions will become the new high-profile protest.

Why? It might be a great way for activists to get a bunch of attention for their causes.

Sure, it will anger the passengers on that flight, screw up their travel plans, possibly cost them hotel and car reservations, and more.

But, hey! Imagine the press!

Joe Activist of Cause Célèbre was detained after his flight was diverted. Mr. Activisit refused to wear a mask inflight — a violation of the airline’s PPE policy. When asked why he didn’t comply, he said it was to draw attention to such-and-such’s plight…” 

Sounds crazy, sure.

But you know darn well it’s going to happen. (And deep-pocketed supporters will happily foot any costs associated with the diversion.)

What Do You Think?

Where do you fall on this one? Is not wearing a mask a diversion-worthy offense? Tell us your thoughts in the Comments section.

— Chris

H/T: Daily Mail. Featured image: ©iStock.com/macky_ch

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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19 Comments

  1. I board my flights each week with a mask. I put it on right before I board. I remove it once we takeoff.

    There’s no way I’m wearing one for five hours while on a plane.
    Zero chance.

    I put it on when we land and deboard.

    I do the bare minimum to be allowed on the plane, but I no longer shop at stores that require masks either. I’m certainly not gonna take part in this security theater – all this virtue signaling, cover yourself just dumbs citizens down more every day.

    • You and the other [removed] like you are the reason people are stacked up like cordwood in NY. [removed]

  2. This would make for a wonderful ADA lawsuit. It’s astonishing how stupid upper level corporate types can be.

    This would be a big payday for someone with breathing issues.

  3. Chris Smith Reply

    I’ve been traveling weekly since the pandemic began and can only speak for Frontier and United. The threats of diverting is inaccurate. Passengers are asked to put masks on but not reinforced if someone chooses not to wear one. As George mentioned, many will wear for the boarding process but will remove once seated. The only changes I can see that are noticeable is UAL is choosing to keep the middle row empty on most flights.

    • It would be very bad PR if an flight diverted because he developed breathing issues and took the mask off. Requiring a passenger to disclose what the issue is would be a violation of that passengers medical privacy. Diversions are very expensive. Let the ADA and HIPAA lawsuits begin. Some lawyers are going to get rich.

  4. Barry Graham Reply

    If it really can help protect others then as much as I hate them, they should be worn until there is a cure, vaccine or the risk of infection is minimal. If it’s a requirement I’ll comply.

    What bothers me is that all the biology I learned suggests they don’t help. The main reason we’re doing this is to make people feel safer. As with a lot of what’s happening now, this is the media and social media (not you Chris) convincing us to change our behavior in ways that are not always helpful.

  5. What happens on longer flights when I have to eat and drink? For how long can my mask be removed before I am non-compliant??

  6. Pingback: Video of American Airlines Crowded Flight - No Social Distancing

  7. Diversion is a such a blunt-force instrument that inconveniences those who are following the airline’s requirements (and public health recommendations that are designed to lower–not eliminate but lower–risk of transmission as we can open up the economy) and wastes fuel and money. And, as Chris suggests, there will be people who try to do this just as an act of protest. A much more precise tool is the one JetBlue’s CEO said his company will use if people refuse to comply after warnings: ban them from flying the airline again. It’s their airline, their planes, their employees, etc. If you don’t like it, fly someone else. If all airlines took this approach, I would expect there would be near-100% compliance.

  8. MICHAEL MCLEAN Reply

    Jetblue won’t need to ban me. I would never fly an airline with such an attitude.

    i

  9. Airlines know they there will never be 100% compliance with masks either on or off the aircraft. Way too cost-prohibitive to divert flights over it. Won’t happen.

    • Bob swartz Reply

      I’m a flight attendant. To avoid wearing a mask continuously sip water or munch on something. The airline can’t restrict your drinking and eating.

  10. cori thompson Reply

    Not going to wear one. I travel A LOT. This is a dangerous practice. Research it , sheeple.

  11. For the past five years I have averaged 200K miles a year on airplanes. I won’t get on a plane again until a vaccine becomes available. Successful Infection = Exposure x Time. A long flight on an airplane brings a long exposure time. It’s a risk I’m not willing to accept. As for masks, barring a medical excuse, you should wear one. Unless it’s an N-95, the mask isn’t for you it’s for the people around you whom you may infect because you are shedding COVID-19 and don’t know it. Unless you have a medical condition that keeps you from wearing a mask what message are those without masks trying to send fellow passengers?

  12. I’m an airline captain. There is no way I’m diverting for a simple mask refusal. Like the memo says, if they are compliant, we’re not stopping.

  13. Bob swartz Reply

    I’m a flight attendant. To avoid wearing a mask continuously sip water or munch on something. The airline can’t restrict your drinking and eating.

    • Barry Graham Reply

      I don’t believe you. It was the flight attendants that lobbied for this restriction.

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