Why the mask mandate on airplanes is good for business | Top stories

Why the mask mandate on airplanes is good for business

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“I think it’s very clear that masks add little, if anything, to the cabin environment,” he said in response to a question during a hearing at the Senate. “It’s very safe and of very high quality compared to any other indoor environment. ”

It’s clear Kelly is correct that the air in planes is safer than most other indoor environments, including most offices and stores. Not only does it pass through medical grade HEPA filters, cabin air is exchanged with outside air on a constant basis throughout flights.

But the Centers for Disease Control and the Transportation Security Administration insist that even with this air quality, masks are still important in combating the transmission of Covid among passengers, many of whom are not vaccinated because they are wrapped closer than they might be. in any other setting for hours. Federal rules requiring masks not only on planes but also on trains and buses are expected to remain in effect until at least March 2022.

Another less obvious benefit, experts believe, is that masks give passengers the confidence they need to book flights. in the first place.

“I can’t tell science if the masks are useful. But what I think about the masks’ mandate is that they help book pleasure travel,” said Kerry Tan, professor of economics. at Loyola Unversity Maryland and expert in air economics. to travel. “I have the impression that this will generally give passengers some peace of mind.”

While business travel and international travel are yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, leisure travel is reportedly close to 2019 levels, particularly during the holiday season.

The number of passengers who will not take the plane because they don’t like masks is likely far exceeded by those who book flights because they know the people sitting around them will be wearing masks, Tan said. Of course, he admits it’s hard to prove, as there isn’t any hard evidence one way or the other.

What is known is that at the start of the pandemic, all airlines were leaving the middle seats empty in order to provide passengers with some degree of social distancing on board. It was an easy accommodation to make as so few passengers were flying in those early days, when the pandemic nearly halted demand for air travel on the ground.

But as soon as demand started to return in the summer of 2020, most airlines abandoned the policy, with the exception of Delta Air Lines, which kept their middle seats empty until May 1. The company was rewarded by being able to charge a higher price. average fare per mile than its competitors. Of course, no one can say whether passengers were paying more for social distancing or the extra wiggle room.

CEOs of other airlines have said they do not share Kelly’s view that masks are no longer needed. Even Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, who first said “I agree” after Kelly made his statement, then said he was wrong and did not say he was wrong. only agreed with the belief that the air in planes is safe, not that masks are unnecessary.

“We support the mask’s federal mandate. Full stop. It was issued by the TSA and in consultation with the CDC and other health experts to protect the safety and well-being of our customers and members of our team. Our job is to uphold the mandate. ” Parker said in a follow-up statement Thursday night. “We look forward to the day when there is no federal mask mandate for air travel, because that will mean the pandemic is behind us. But today is not that day.”

Delta (DAL) CEO Ed Bastian said that with the growing number of Omicron cases, “masks are going to be important as protection for some time to come.”
There is a downside to airlines having a mask warrant to apply – it has caused an increase in incidents involving unruly passengers. But at least with a federal rule, airlines can tell passengers who are just unhappy and not unruly that they need to wear a mask to comply with federal rules, not the airline’s own rules. And they don’t have to worry about losing mask-averse customers to a competitor.

The Big Four airlines have declined to speculate whether their reservations are helped or hurt by the mask’s warrant, but other experts agree that’s likely a benefit.

“It’s not a big deterrent for people to take air travel, so it’s probably a net positive for bookings at this point,” said Savi Syth, airlines analyst for Raymond James. “This is a service company. Airlines need to make sure passengers are as comfortable as possible. Even though no one likes to wear masks, many would feel less comfortable if others don’t. “

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