US airlines sure have evolved on their position when it comes to employees wearing face masks.
United makes face masks mandatory for flight attendants
As of today (Friday, April 24, 2020), United Airlines is making it mandatory for flight attendants to wear face masks or other face coverings while on duty. Previously it was optional for flight attendants to wear them.
This is intended to be in line with CDC recommendations to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible (and clearly it’s not possible for flight attendants).
With this new requirement, United Airlines:
- Will place 20 masks on each domestic aircraft
- Will place 40 masks on each international aircraft
- They won’t be replenished every flight, so flight attendants will be expected to reuse them, and they’ll be restocked as needed, and as supplies allow
Obviously things have evolved quite a bit — until mid-March, American Airlines expressly prohibited flight attendants from wearing face masks, though they changed their policy under pressure.
United is the second US airline to make face masks mandatory, as JetBlue became the first to have this requirement as of April 19, 2020. American also followed shortly thereafter, requiring masks as of May 1.
Flight attendant union calls for stronger measures
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), representing all United Airlines flight attendants, is requesting further measures. The union has written a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting stronger measures to protect flight crews and passengers from the spread of COVID-19.
The AFA is requesting the following until COVID-19 is contained:
- That all passengers and airline employees wear masks when traveling
- That all crews wear personal protective equipment (PPE), and not just masks
- That all leisure travel be ended
United Airlines has become the second major US airline to require flight attendants to wear masks. At most other US airlines it’s just an option. However, the AFA is demanding more, including all passengers being required to wear masks, and also for leisure travel to be ended for now.
Of course in other parts of the world crews have been given more protection. For example, Philippine Airlines flight attendants are all wearing PPE.
Would you support all passengers being required to wear masks? Do you agree that leisure travel should be banned until COVID-19 is under control?