On Sunday, American Airlines relaxed its previous ban on face masks for cabin crew. However, the airline stated the worldwide shortage of masks as a reason why it would not be providing them for its staff. Flight attendants are asked to bring their own mask to work if this will make them feel safer.
Last of the “big three”
The last of the “big three” to do so, American Airlines has now retracted its policy not to allow crew members on their flights to wear face masks. Up until yesterday, the official American policy stated that masks in flight or in the terminal were not allowed.
As reported by View From the Wing, American changed its policy on Sunday. A communication from Jill Surdek, Vice President of Customer Planning at American, went out mid-afternoon to flight attendants that read:
“There have been no changes to CDC recommendations regarding face masks for crews. They still do not consider it an effective protection again the virus…Face masks are impactful when worn by sick people. Nonetheless, some of you have said that it would make you feel safer and comfortable to wear a mask, so we will now permit this.”
The e-mail stated that American would not be supplying its staff with masks, but they would now be free to bring their own. It said this was not to further exacerbate the worldwide shortage that has ensued as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
This turn-around came just a day after reports of a disciplinary call received by a flight attendant who had indeed worn a face mask on her latest trip. The American Airlines employee was asked to “use sick time” if they did not feel comfortable coming to work without a face mask.
Flight attendants high-risk group for exposure
It is true that face masks have not been proven the most effective means of protection from contracting coronavirus. However, it is not for no reason that health care workers are required to wear them.
A recent report by The New York Times showed that flight attendants are the group of workers with the highest risk of exposure to coronavirus after nurses, paramedics, and dentists. This report, according to Forbes, caused union representatives for American’s 26,000 flight attendants to demand “hazard pay.” Could this also be a reason for the airline’s change of heart?
Even though their efficiency to protect the bearer is under dispute, face masks could prevent those carrying the virus, even if asymptomatic, from spreading it. Therefore they would constitute protection both for co-workers and passengers, should a crew member be infected but not be showing any symptoms. With what is known of the potential length of incubation time for COVID-19, this would seem a priority.
Not only crew but passengers too for Alitalia
The Italian flag-carrier Alitalia demands not only that its crew members wear masks at all times, but that passengers do so as well. Passengers are asked to provide themselves with a personal mask before boarding and to wear it if the number of co-passengers on the flight does not allow for a one-meter distance to be maintained. The airline reserves the right to deny boarding to any individual, not in possession of a mask.
Are you wearing a face mask when traveling these days? Do sights of flight attendants wearing masks make you feel safer or more concerned? Let us know in the comments!