The head of Airlines for America, an organization that represents the country’s biggest airliners, said passengers who oppose wearing face masks while flying are being peer pressured into wearing them — despite the absence of a federal mandate for it.
“What you’re finding, I think, is essentially mask-shaming by other passengers,” Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas Calio said Tuesday.
U.S. airlines require face masks while boarding and in flight, but absent a requirement by the Federal Aviation Administration, flight crews are unable to enforce the airline policy in the same way they enforce other FAA policies, such as wearing seat belts and not smoking on the aircraft. Airline, airport, and government transportation leaders told reporters in a call Tuesday that they expect a surge of 4 million travelers on the week of July 4, which will put a greater number of passengers and air travel employees at odds with each other over the necessity of masks.
“We believe in self-help. We don’t think a mandate is necessary,” said Calio. “If you refuse to wear your mask, you suffer the penalties that I mentioned before, essentially you get treated — you get put in the category of not listening to the flight crew as an unruly passenger. And that has really worked, and we think it will keep working.”
However, top airport officials want the Trump administration to take action. American Association of Airport Executives President and CEO Todd Hauptli said his organization has been looking for federal guidelines on the masks, adding that two-thirds of large U.S. airports require them.
“We have urged the federal government to adapt guidelines for the use of facial coverings,” said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the Airports Council International’s North America division. “The challenge we’re going to have as we move forward and more people are moving through the airports — we have a social distancing issue,” he said. “The more folks that are wearing masks, and even if it’s a temporary federal requirement, pretty much guarantee that those people are wearing masks in a public place and maybe that queuing goes from 6 feet to 3 feet.”
David Pekoske, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, said the federal agency has begun rolling out self-service processes at some airport security checkpoints in an effort to keep passengers and checkpoint officers from having to interact in close proximity. The systems allow people to scan their boarding pass and driver’s license or passport into a machine, then proceed to the X-ray machines instead of giving both documents to an officer.
The TSA is mulling over how to respond to airport leaders’ calls to implement temperature checks of all passengers, who are presently allowed into the airport and on a plane without a health inspection. Pekoske said the decision was not solely TSA’s and that temperature checks “are not a guarantee” that passengers who have a fever have the coronavirus, nor does it provide any way to block asymptomatic people from getting through.