Face masks, coverings may become mandatory for plane passengers

Please place your seat backs and tray tables in their upright position — and put your masks on.

Because when we are able to travel the world again, how we fly could look very different to what we are used to.

A growing number of airline carriers, especially in the US have mandated that flight attendants wear protective masks during flights, with many major airlines also requiring passengers to don protective face coverings as well upon boarding.

According to Fox News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) already recommends that everyone wear a “cloth face covering” in community settings, “including during travel if they must travel”.

From today, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines will only allow passengers to fly when wearing a face mask.

“Face coverings will be required starting in the check-in lobby and across Delta touchpoints including Delta Sky Clubs, boarding gate areas, jet bridges and on board the aircraft for the duration of the flight — except during meal service,” a statement from Delta read.

United Airlines will also begin to provide masks to passengers in early May, however the company said they will not be mandating that passengers wear a mask.

“By providing the masks, we’re making it that much easier for them to do so,” a spokesperson said.

Around the world, Canada requires all passengers to wear masks, while Malaysia Airlines is enforcing a policy where passengers bring and wear their own protective masks upon arrival at the airport, including checking-in for flights and collecting baggage.

The airline industry, which has lost billions across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, says carriers and airports need to have internationally agreed measures put in place when the sector begins to recover and people want to fly again.

According to The Independent,the industry fears many prospective holiday-makers contemplating booking a flight may be deterred if there is a risk of catching the virus from passengers on board a plane.

It is argued that the use of face masks on board by each passenger is a simple way to boost confidence, alongside a continued 1.5 metre social distancing and other hygiene measures.

But the World Health Organisation has raised concerns over the inflated sense of security masks may provide passengers, given they may not protect from catching the virus.

“The wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risk,” a spokesperson said as quoted by The Independent.

WHO warns that wearing a mask can create a “false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene”.

While the virus is most commonly transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes, other experts argue that the wearing of masks inside confined areas like a plane cabin is a single way to help reduce the spread.

Speaking to CBS News, physician and certified air-transport pilot Peter Tippett said the use of masks on board planes and at airports by all passengers would make life safer for everyone.

“If you as an airline could only do one thing – between passengers wearing masks and flight attendants wearing masks – passengers wearing masks would win in terms of reducing risk for everyone,” Dr Tippett said.

“First, masks stop you from touching your nose or mouth, and those are the number one and two ways people get coronavirus,” Dr Tippett said.

“A mask also stops water particles – even a rin-tin-tin mask stops those, which are much more likely to infect you than dry virus particles,” he added.

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