The CEO’s of two major US airlines caught a bit of flack after statements made to Congress about the effectiveness of face masks on planes. One is already backtracking after issuing a revised statement clarifying his comments.
The heads of several major US airlines stood before Congress earlier this week answering questions about financial aid they received during the hardest parts of the pandemic in both 2020 and 2021. The wide-ranging questions touched on several subjects, but one topic caused a bit of titter when the leaders of two airlines offered a controversial opinion on face masks.
CEO’s Gary Kelly and Doug Parker, of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines respectively, both caused a stir when responding to Senator Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) question about face masks.
Kelly’s response offered this view, “I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add very much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,’ Kelly said. ‘It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”
Parker replied, “I concur” then further offered a view that the airplane is the safest place you can be right now.
Face masks have been mandated on all commercial flights since early in the pandemic and remain a consistent source of frustration for many travelers. Often, refusal to wear a face mask or wear one correctly plays a part in the recent increase of in-flight altercations. These altercations have spiked during the pandemic with many resulting in violence.
As is well known, Airplanes have some of the best air filtration systems around offering a demonstrably cleaner environment, thus reducing the likelihood of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The CEO’s comments were met with derision from another Senator on the committee, when Senator Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, suggested it was immoral for CEOs to even suggest masks shouldn’t need to be worn on planes anymore.
He stated, “I’m shocked that some of the CEOs here today have suggested we no longer need mask mandates on planes. In the face of Omicron, children under five who still cannot be vaccinated… and that we still allow unvaccinated people on planes.”
Parker, for his part, subsequently issued a statement walking back his comments. We’ve shared it below.
For its part, the Flight Attendant Union, led by Sara Nelson, offered a different view during her testimony as reported by CNN. “Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, testified at the hearing that not all aircraft are equipped with the same quality of air filters. For example, some older planes do not have HEPA filters,” Nelson noted.
The federal mask mandate remains in effect through March of 2022, regardless of the professional opinions of Parker or Kelly.