When wearing a mask on a plane was law, there was no questioning it. With extremely rare exceptions, there was no choice – if you were age 2 or over, either you wore a mask correctly, or you couldn’t fly. Adults who tried to fight the law while in the air sometimes found themselves meeting police at their final destination, on a “no-fly” list, and/or with a hefty fine from the federal government, if the level of their refusal warranted such intervention.
The law has been struck down, which means people don’t have to wear masks if they don’t want to. However, it doesn’t mean that those who choose to wear a mask can’t. Anyone who still wants to wear one, for whatever their reasoning, is, of course, allowed to.
Unfortunately, some commercial airline pilots are taking the opportunity to, essentially, “own the libs” and rub their noses in the fact that masks are no longer required.
In a since-deleted Tweet, on April 20th, Jonathan Evans reported what he says he experienced on an Alaska Airlines flight between MCO and SEA.
Meanwhile, a medical doctor took to Twitter, to share what a Delta pilot allegedly told him:
Flying today. A @delta pilot (🤯) walked by me in the airport and said, take your mask off man- breath free!
Why is it those who so strongly felt others were imposing their beliefs (in health, wellness and compassion) on them, feel so free to impose their beliefs on others?! pic.twitter.com/UQDXcLCoWN
— Jerome Adams (@JeromeAdamsMD) April 20, 2022
Dr. Adams is the former U.S. Surgeon General.
A passenger on one of the legacy airlines also reported on their Facebook account that their pilot made an announcement which included something to the effect of, “…and as you’re aware, the mask mandate was struck down because it was unconstitutional and infringed on our rights…”
Sounds like the Southwest pilot who got into hot water for announcing “Let’s go, Brandon!” on his flight’s PA late last year.
Meanwhile, another Delta passenger posted what the flight attendants on their flight did the other day:
Hi @delta. Your flight attendants greeting us “would you like champagne? Let’s celebrate no more masks” is not what I paid for. It’s not only childish but also creates an uncomfortable, and potentially hostile environment for those of us still masked. COVID is also not seasonal.
— Ify Ike 💙🕊 (@IfyWorks) April 19, 2022
Another flight attendant, this one from JetBlue, walked up the aisle, singing for passengers to throw away their masks:
Posting again because Twitter deleted (?)
The end of the #maskmandate has this plane singing
🎶 Throw away your masks 🎶 pic.twitter.com/BvvCNLE6Ts
— Guy P. Football (@Guy_P_Football) April 19, 2022
I have several friends who are FAs and am well aware that many of them are thrilled about the mask mandate being repealed. However for them, it’s not as much about no longer having to wear a “face diaper,” or their “rights being infringed upon” as much as the simplicity of their own safety. Flight attendants had to turn into “mask police,” which I know is not what they signed up for. Nor was the increased risk of their being cursed out or beat up because of having to enforce rules that some people felt was so abhorrent that they would act out against these enforcers.
But “no more masks” on planes is not a cause for celebration for a whole lot of people. Kids under 5 (6% of the U.S. population) can’t be vaccinated against COVID yet. Babies under 2 can’t wear masks. People who are living with cancer (5%), weakened immune systems (nearly 3%), who are older (16.5%), or who have a host of underlying health conditions (some of which are very prevalent in the U.S. – cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, smokers, severe obesity, etc.) all have an increased risk of severe COVID, even if they’re vaccinated. Anyone who gets COVID, even a mild case, can still wind up with long COVID. And on top of all of that, a poll by the Associated Press found that more than half in the U.S. favored requiring people on planes, trains and public transportation to wear masks.
So champagne? Singing about throwing your mask into a trash bag? “Take your mask off [and] breathe free?” “…it was unconstitutional and infringed on our rights…” A pilot chiding mask wearers? Unprofessional and inappropriate.
To their credit, Alaska Airlines did reach out to Evans in response to his post:
We are sorry for the experience you had on board our flight yesterday. We have started an investigation to look into this situation. Could we please have you DM us your contact information? -Michael
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) April 20, 2022
Evans said the airline did contact him and said they would investigate but they wouldn’t be able to share the results with him.
Obviously, these kinds of behaviors don’t happen on all flights. In fact, some airlines (or at least some flights) appear to be proactive in keeping everyone – pilots, flight attendants and passengers – on an even keel regarding mask use since the mandate was knocked down. Case in point, on both of the Southwest flights Joe and I took last week, the pre-flight announcement included that if any passenger was making others not feel welcome, to tell a flight attendant – which I thought was a thoughtful way to handle any potential problems.
That approach seems to be the most appropriate – no big announcement about the joys of not wearing masks, but acknowledging and giving respect to those who prefer to wear them.
That’s how it should be, shouldn’t it?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary