The Next Evolution In Airline Mask Policy – View from the Wing

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There are subtleties in airline mask policies, but largely there’s been a six-part progression has gone like this.

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  1. Customers are required to wear masks, but we’re really just asking
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  3. We’re going to enforce it
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  5. We’re defining what a mask is
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  7. There are no more medical exceptions (or a medical exception needs to be signed off on by an airline-contracted doctor)
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  9. Children 2 years old and older have to wear them too
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  11. We’re defining ‘what constitutes a mask’

It wasn’t enough just to ask customers to wear masks. Part of the reason is how political masks have become, although I wonder if they’re getting less so as people become used to the requirement, the President wears one in public, and Red States are requiring them too.

Masks seem like the conservative alternative to lockdowns, a less intrusive government policy than requiring businesses to close and people to stay home (or in the case of airlines, a private sector policy – which should be even more appealing to conservatives).

Nonetheless, there’s frustration and a desire to thumb a nose at authorities who have gotten so much wrong during this crisis. The CDC and other health officials, including the Surgeon General and Dr. Fauci, told people not to wear masks early in the crisis, that they didn’t help, and they were lying to give government and health care an chance to buy up the good ones. One of the great shames of the crisis is that production of good quality mask production still hasn’t ramped up enough for the general public to buy them at scale.

So airlines have had to tell people they cannot wear women’s underwear as a mask, that masks have to go over the nose and mouth not just drape around one’s face or cover one’s eyes.

And the latest round, of which American Airlines is the latest to update its policy (matching Delta and United, effective August 19th), is that masks with valves are unacceptable. That’s because those protect the wearer, but do not protect others from the wearer. Similarly mesh and lace masks are not permitted.

There’s no more masks like the one that a Las Vegas Councilwoman and member of the Convention and Visitors Authority board promotes.

I don’t always take a photo w a mask on but when I do, it’s my #N69Mask❤️ Thanks for lovely messages on my N69Mask-it does come w protection (filter) we removed it for photo to show detail-Lots of comments on N69Mask as panties-To those: Don’t get your panties in such a wad. 💋 pic.twitter.com/KMHVMWlKvQ

– Councilwoman Michele Fiore (@VoteFiore) July 10, 2020

And there’s also none like this permitted:

There is one circumstance in which masks with valves are still permitted, though, according to an American Airlines spokesperson. A couple of years ago I was doing renovations on my house. I’ve got some N95 masks with vents in the garage. I haven’t donated them or worn them, because they aren’t protective of others. On the other hand though I’d love to benefit from their protection. American Airlines tells me, if a passenger “prefer[s] to wear a valved or vented [mask], they’ll need to have an approved one on top of it.”

So you can still wear a mask with a valve on American Airlines, as long as you cover it up with another mask.