Air hostess unions want to extend mask mandate on planes

Flight attendants want the federal government to extend face mask requirements on commercial planes beyond next month’s expiration date, even with growing pressure against mask mandates on planes, airports and elsewhere .

Flight attendant unions at American Airlines, United Airlines and several regional carriers say now is not the right time to drop mask rules, even though they are “looking forward to a time when face masks don’t will no longer be a requirement for air travel.

“While more of the world now has access to life-saving vaccines, we still have a significant portion of the population who are vulnerable, including our youngest passengers,” said Paul Hartshorn, spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents approximately 24,550 employees of American Airlines, based in Fort Worth.

The Transportation Security Administration’s mandate requiring the wearing of masks on airplanes, on interstate bus routes and at transportation terminals such as airports expires March 18, about 14 months after the mandate took effect initial of the Biden administration. Many parts of the country are beginning to drop mask requirements, including states such as Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as many businesses that required face masks to be worn for much of the pandemic.

TWU Local 556, which represents flight attendants at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, did not respond to a request for comment.

The White House has not indicated whether it will extend the aircraft masking order beyond next month.

The Dallas Independent School District said Friday it will no longer require masks for students and staff starting March 1, and Southwest Airlines has made masks optional on campus at its Love Field headquarters.

But whether or not masks should be mandatory in the air on commercial flights remains a contentious issue. Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over mask mandates on planes, saying the agency did not have the authority to enforce the rule. The TSA also issued a rule making masks mandatory at airports.

While COVID-19 cases have declined since the omicron variant surge that peaked in January, flight attendants and others argue that masks help protect vulnerable travelers.

“The conditions in aviation are the same,” said Taylor Garland, spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents flight attendants at airlines such as United, Frontier, Spirit and Alaska, as well as than regional carriers Envoy, Mesa, Piedmont and others. “Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine.”

Garland said the masks help maintain passenger confidence in air travel. Despite a rapid return to air travel, passenger numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels, especially business and international travel.

“The plane is a unique but controlled environment for everyone’s safety,” Garland said. “The layered approach to safety and security includes masks.”

The fight to keep masks on comes as flight attendants also seek to crack down on unruly passengers with a no-fly list that could be shared between airlines for travelers who cause trouble on flights.

“Flight attendants continue to face physical and verbal abuse, and we cannot sit idly by and allow these offenders to carry out these dangerous acts from one airline to another,” the president of the airline said. ‘APFA, Julie Hedrick, in a press release. “This behavior must stop.”

At the beginning of last week, Ted Cruz of Texas was among a group of eight Republican senators who wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking to stop airlines and the government from creating a no-fly list for passengers.

“The TSA was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior on board flights,” the letter reads, also signed by Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of the Utah, among others. .

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