The Airline Executive Face Mask Double Standard

The Airline Executive Face Mask Double Standard

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What happened to the concept of leading by example?

Airline executives flout mask rules

We’re slowly starting to see some airlines and airports remove the requirement to wear masks when traveling. Personally I’m in favor of giving people that choice at this point, as we have readily available vaccines and high quality masks for those who want to wear them.

However, I can’t help but point out the double standard that seems to exist in the industry, whereby executives decide that the rules don’t apply to them. We’ve now seen this at both Delta and Etihad over the span of just a couple of days. I wasn’t going to write about this when I saw it as a single isolated incident, but with a second one today, I can’t help but point this out in hopes of leaders doing better.

Etihad’s maskless business class cabin

Not only does the UAE require face masks on airplanes, but it’s also an explicit policy on the part of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways:

To keep everyone protected on board, you must wear a face mask on every Etihad Airways flight.

Etihad Airways is today operating its very first Airbus A350 flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris. The business class cabin is largely full of invited media, and Etihad CEO Tony Douglas is even onboard. In pictures posted online, not only is Douglas giving a speech without wearing a mask, but seemingly none of the passengers are wearing masks either.

Presumably if a passenger in economy were to not wear a mask, they’d be told to put it on by the crew. Meanwhile when the boss is onboard, that rule no longer applies. It also seems so out of touch to me to do this when there’s so much media onboard, and when you know pictures are going to be taken. Yet (perhaps not so) oddly I haven’t seen any of the media on the flight mention anything about this…

Delta’s LAX ribbon cutting ceremony

As View from the Wing noted yesterday, Delta held a ribbon cutting at LAX on Tuesday, for its newly redesigned terminal. There were all kinds of important people in attendance, ranging from Delta CEO Ed Bastian, to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The US federal transportation mask mandate is currently in place through April 18, and is pretty explicit. In this case, the mandate specifically states the following:

Operators of transportation hubs must require all persons to wear a mask when entering or on the premises of a transportation hub. 

There are very limited exceptions, like while eating, drinking, or taking medication, for brief periods. Yet Delta’s ribbon cutting ceremony would make you believe that it was February 2019, with all kinds of executives standing just inches apart maskless while cutting a ribbon.

Similarly, speeches are given while maskless, and Garcetti even jokes about the construction workers wearing masks.

If we’re going to emphasize the importance of masks, these are two of the highest risk situations — being in very close proximity to one another (as in the ribbon cutting ceremony), and speaking (when the most respiratory aerosols are emitted).

Bottom line

Personally I hope that mask mandates for transportation end soon, and people get the choice as to whether or not they want to wear masks. That being said, for the time being we’re all stuck following the rules, and airlines continue to closely enforce these in many parts of the world… unless you’re an important executive.

The UAE and Etihad Airways require all passengers to wear masks, seemingly unless you’re the CEO, or unless you’re in business class with the CEO. Meanwhile Delta’s CEO, the Mayor of Los Angeles, and others, had no issues posing for photos (with almost no distancing) maskless, and even giving speeches without masks.

I’m not trying to take a cheap shot at these people, as I have a lot of respect for most of them. However, so many hard working frontline employees in the airline industry have had to wear masks without exception for the past two years, and this kind of behavior sends the wrong message to those people, in my opinion (especially the Etihad situation).

Is leading by example too much to ask for?

Conversations (40)
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  1. foo blah Guest

    Who knows, maybe the tested every before these events or asked for vaccination statuses. Pretty easy to do.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ foo blah -- Even vaccinated people have to wear masks per the US federal transportation mask mandate, plus UAE regulations.

  2. Victor Guest

    Took Qatar Airways in February from NYC-DOH-BOM in Qsuites business with my wife and we were maskless pretty much the entire 13 hr flight and not once were we asked by flight attendants to wear a mask. I don't know if it's a business class thing or just non-confrontational flight attendants. But on all 4 segments, we were never asked to wear a mask

  3. Donna Diamond

    I see this as a subtle signal that it’s time to end the restrictions. But moreover, it’s hard to give a speech in a mask in my experience.

    1. Jill Guest

      Because they are not following the science

      That’s why

    2. Mr. Obvious Guest

      Congrats. Jill solved the puzzle. What does she win today?

    3. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

      Hold on. Was this sarcasm....or are you serious??? It's not Fall 2020. Even Lucky notes - which makes it confusing why he's making a big deal about this - that there are vaccines available and anyone wants a mask can get one. There is no need for masks anymore. Of course, if you were being sarcastic, my apologies.

  4. Joel S Avgeek Guest

    Ben. Please don't become another Gary Leff. You're better than that. I've 86'd 'View From The Wing' because he constantly publishes 'Click Bait' topics that serve no educational value and lack objectivity. OMAT is one of my favorite blogs. Please keep it that way by not publlshing 'much ado about nothing' posts. Who has time for that ??

    1. Steve Guest

      What’s wrong with Mr. Gary Leff

    2. UA-NYC Diamond

      He let his site be overrun with racists, white supremacists, anti-vaxxing misinformation spreaders, etc. Because free speech lol.
      Count me as another one who no longer visits.

  5. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The hypocrisy is that there is still a mask mandate in airport terminals when they no longer exist in most of the rest of the USA and even onboard aircraft departing from many countries.

    And the ribbon cutting was in a non-public area of the airport so there was no interaction with the public. I'm not even sure if it is even accurate to say that a mask mandate applied in a non-public area of...

    The hypocrisy is that there is still a mask mandate in airport terminals when they no longer exist in most of the rest of the USA and even onboard aircraft departing from many countries.

    And the ribbon cutting was in a non-public area of the airport so there was no interaction with the public. I'm not even sure if it is even accurate to say that a mask mandate applied in a non-public area of the airport.

    But since it involved not just airline execs but also government leaders, why don't you ask the maskless Jen Psaki or any of the other White House talking heads their thoughts on the issue since the mask mandate is, of course, a Biden mandate.

    1. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

      Good point. I don't have any issue with the execs not wearing a mask. They didn't put in place government mandates. They often opposed them. I have more concern about the LA mayor not wearing one IF LA still has a mandate since putting that in place is within his power or influence. And if LA doesn't have a mask mandate, I don't much care if he has one either. I think most of us...

      Good point. I don't have any issue with the execs not wearing a mask. They didn't put in place government mandates. They often opposed them. I have more concern about the LA mayor not wearing one IF LA still has a mandate since putting that in place is within his power or influence. And if LA doesn't have a mask mandate, I don't much care if he has one either. I think most of us are over these freaking masks and really are sick of the "Ooooh!!! So and so doesn't have on a mask!!!"

    2. rj Guest

      2022: Where we've decided that "hypocrisy" is: enforcing different rules in different places.

      God those lunatics...trying to protect society during a public health emergency that has now killed a million Americans.

      Maybe stop being a disingenuous coward for 2-3 seconds?

    3. JWags Guest

      So you're good with everyone wearing masks until we're at Zero Covid then? And everyone who is tired of wearing a mask when mask requirements have been dropped almost everywhere is just selfish?

  6. Eric Guest

    On my BA LHR-ARN return flights, there was no mask mandate! Some pax wore them, most didn’t . Similarly at LHR, it’s clear masks are optional when airport employees (including security personnel) aren’t wearing them. Even on my US BA flights - announcements on masks given performatively, but no hassle from cabin crew.

    This is all ending soon. No one cares anymore.

  7. Jason Guest

    You're a day late and a dollar short to this "controversy".
    For the LAX presentation, if you actually look, you can see that when people are not speaking, they are masked. Take a look. As far as speaking and masking, that's ridiculous. Even during the height of the pandemic whenever you'd see people on TV giving a speech, like the president, vice president, etc, they'd typically take off their mask for the speech and...

    You're a day late and a dollar short to this "controversy".
    For the LAX presentation, if you actually look, you can see that when people are not speaking, they are masked. Take a look. As far as speaking and masking, that's ridiculous. Even during the height of the pandemic whenever you'd see people on TV giving a speech, like the president, vice president, etc, they'd typically take off their mask for the speech and then later put it back on. No difference here.
    As far as the Etihad thing, I dont care.
    While technically I guess they are in breech of "rules", these people put their masks right back on after speaking. And probably, once all left the airport, they went to restaurants, bars, etc where there are zero masking rules.
    Not sure why you went out of your way to make a post on this a few days after everybody else noticed. (and not sure why i'm bothered by it, but so be it !)

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Jason -- I'm sorry you're so triggered by this, I guess? I'm making a post "a few days after everyone else noticed?" The LAX event happened 36 hours before I published my post, and I published my post a couple of hours after the Etihad incident. As I explained in the post, it was the two back-to-back events that caused me to post about it.

      Good for you that you don't care about the...

      @ Jason -- I'm sorry you're so triggered by this, I guess? I'm making a post "a few days after everyone else noticed?" The LAX event happened 36 hours before I published my post, and I published my post a couple of hours after the Etihad incident. As I explained in the post, it was the two back-to-back events that caused me to post about it.

      Good for you that you don't care about the Etihad event, but I'm not sure that's much of a justification for what happened?

      And for the record, I don't disagree with you about the speeches, really, though I think the ribbon cutting is a different story. We've seen lots of ribbon cuttings during the pandemic at places with mask mandates, and I've almost always seen masks used even during the photos.

    2. Jason Guest

      A friend of mine was on the EY AUH-CDG Inaugural 350 flight in coach. Posted tons of pictures. No masks either. FYI

    3. Donato Guest

      I can understand the use of a mask interferes with eating or drinking. The use of a mask while speaking, while less comfortable, is uber necessary. If there is a need for masking, masking while speaking in proximity of others is necessary. The President speaks somewhat in isolation, not adjacent to others.

    4. Sam nicholsoln Guest

      Um, show mew where thee CDC said that you're allowed to take off your mask to make a speech.

      As a flight attendant, I make speeches daily but I'm unfortunately forced to wear a mask. What's the difference?

  8. Tom Guest

    Since when are you and this blog the mask police? I’m not anti mask (or vax) but this is soooooo preachy - you are really worried about “social distancing” at this point? And if Ed is far enough away from the mayor?!

    Let’s be real, the mask mandate is a joke given the air in airplane is cleaner than almost anywhere else and airports are packed anyway and certainly far better circulated than many bars and restaurants where no masking is required!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Tom -- I think I made it pretty clear that my point wasn't about whether or not masks should be required, but rather about executives flouting the rules that everyone else has to follow. I'd love to see the mask mandate eliminated for all of us!

    2. AGrumpyOldMan_GA Gold

      But, Ben, the execs have lobbied against these silly mandates at this point. They are not being hypocrites since they don't want them and don't want to force others to wear a mask. Yes, they may be technically breaking the rules so, if so, Biden can send FAA officials down to issue citations. I get the sense from what I read here and elsewhere that airlines are done being deputized as the mask cops.

    3. rj Guest

      Grumpy old coward bingo:
      -pretends that wearing a mask during a public health emergency that has killed a million americans is an overwhelming hardship.
      -awkward throwaway bitch and moan comment about biden.
      -who cares about enforcing rules i dont want enforced? anyway, back to calling the cops over these kids walking across my lawn.

    4. Sammy nich Guest

      It is a hardship and I refuse to do it.

      Does that bother you? May I also ask why you're looking at my face in the first place? Creep.

  9. George Romey Guest

    From what I'm noticing "mask enforcement" is becoming very laxed in the premium cabin on the airline I fly on. Some of that is related to flyers often have a beverage in front of them. I don't think what I'm seeing as an anomaly.

    Most flight attendants are tired of and do not want to play mask police, running down the aisle looking for people not "actively eating and drinking." (One of the most moronic...

    From what I'm noticing "mask enforcement" is becoming very laxed in the premium cabin on the airline I fly on. Some of that is related to flyers often have a beverage in front of them. I don't think what I'm seeing as an anomaly.

    Most flight attendants are tired of and do not want to play mask police, running down the aisle looking for people not "actively eating and drinking." (One of the most moronic terms I've heard in my 62 years on Earth).

    Even the so called "leaders" that tout "mask efficiencies" are caught thanks to new technology not wearing a mask when they don't think there's a camera. It's time to end this silliness and allow people the option to wear a mask (or the Darth Vader shield) if that gives them safety and security.

    1. Sam Guest

      I am a Flight attendant and I am proud to say that I have never asked a single passenger to wear a mask the last two years. And I have been working consistently throughout the pandemic.

      It's basically our choice now whether or not to enforce the mandate, and if any flight attendant does enforce it, that's jusst them being a total Karen. They can blame it on the federal maskkmandate all they want but no honey, it's all you.

  10. GroeneMichel Member

    And afterwards they go to a restaurant without masks at all...and this restaurant will be smaller with a lower level of air circulation. Masking policies have become a joke.

  11. Mr. Obvious Guest

    Glad you have finally woken to the "Rules for thee but not for me" hypocrisy.

    1. UA-NYC Diamond

      Sounds like 4 years of the prior administration

  12. Syd Guest

    Kudos to Ben, 750 days into 15-days-to-slow-the-spread he found out that those making strict rules for others don't like to abide by them when their personal comfort is at stake. At this rate, in some 67 years give or take he may stop propaganding and advocating such behavior.

    1. rj Guest

      I'm only asking out of curiosity, much like a mental health professional might:
      What do you get out of making super awkward disingenuous projections at a stranger who doesnt know you or care about you? Is this some sort of outlet for a more serious problem? Perhaps you should work on that?

    2. Syd Guest

      Lmaaooo, talk about awkward disingenuous projections.

  13. Sean M. Diamond

    I remember the first day that masks became mandatory for domestic flights in Ghana, nearly two years ago. One of the trending images from that day on local social media was a tweeted selfie of myself (as the COO of the airline) and the Minister of Aviation (as the politician responsible for imposing the mask mandate) sitting in adjacent seats on a flight, almost unrecognizable due to our face masks. Our airport staff told me...

    I remember the first day that masks became mandatory for domestic flights in Ghana, nearly two years ago. One of the trending images from that day on local social media was a tweeted selfie of myself (as the COO of the airline) and the Minister of Aviation (as the politician responsible for imposing the mask mandate) sitting in adjacent seats on a flight, almost unrecognizable due to our face masks. Our airport staff told me later that they used to show this tweet to reluctant passengers for weeks afterward to demonstrate that the rules applied to everyone and that it invariably helped boost compliance with the mandates.

    If leaders cannot lead by example, they are not leaders.

    PS. The above anecdote doesn’t reflect my current views on mask mandates by any means, but rather is intended to reinforce the hypocrisy of the situations that you highlighted.

    1. Morgan Gold

      What airline would that be @Sean M?

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      The airline in Ghana that I was the COO of at the time. :)

      Sorry, but due to the vagaries of Google indexing I try to avoid using my own full name or my employer/client names on the interwebs - although none of it is intended to be secret if I'm talking about it publicly.

  14. The truth Guest

    Money talks, power talks.

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Sean M. Diamond

I remember the first day that masks became mandatory for domestic flights in Ghana, nearly two years ago. One of the trending images from that day on local social media was a tweeted selfie of myself (as the COO of the airline) and the Minister of Aviation (as the politician responsible for imposing the mask mandate) sitting in adjacent seats on a flight, almost unrecognizable due to our face masks. Our airport staff told me later that they used to show this tweet to reluctant passengers for weeks afterward to demonstrate that the rules applied to everyone and that it invariably helped boost compliance with the mandates. If leaders cannot lead by example, they are not leaders. PS. The above anecdote doesn’t reflect my current views on mask mandates by any means, but rather is intended to reinforce the hypocrisy of the situations that you highlighted.

8
Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Tom -- I think I made it pretty clear that my point wasn't about whether or not masks should be required, but rather about executives flouting the rules that everyone else has to follow. I'd love to see the mask mandate eliminated for all of us!

5
Tom Guest

Since when are you and this blog the mask police? I’m not anti mask (or vax) but this is soooooo preachy - you are really worried about “social distancing” at this point? And if Ed is far enough away from the mayor?! Let’s be real, the mask mandate is a joke given the air in airplane is cleaner than almost anywhere else and airports are packed anyway and certainly far better circulated than many bars and restaurants where no masking is required!

4
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