U.S. Will No Longer Enforce Mask Mandate on Airplanes
U.S. Will No Longer Enforce Mask Mandate on Airplanes

Major US airlines have now banned face masks with valves or vents, as CDC research has cast doubt over their effectiveness. From now on, passengers cannot board any American Airlines, Alaska Air, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit or United flight when wearing such masks – here’s why.

“A mask may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others”  says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is exactly why masks with valves do not make the cut.

Valve Mask Ineffectiveness
Picture: 3M (modified by Ted Perton)

In the case of a standard surgical or N95 mask, air is filtered both in and out. Bear in mind that these masks are primarily designed to provide protection both ways, ensuring that contaminated outgoing air cannot escape the user’s mask.

Masks with valves are not designed for medical use; rather they are designed for situations where strong protection is needed for the wearer, but not necessarily those around them. Onboard an aircraft the air is filtered through hospital-grade HEPA filters, the wearing of masks helps ensure that infected water droplets do not enter the cabin.

“The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. [Valves] can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus.” 

Wearing masks while flying
Masks without valves (pictured above) ensure that any infected water droplets are not released

Masks Are Already Mandatory

Face masks are now mandatory on US flights, so these tightened restrictions are unlikely to cause any major disruption. Airlines are accepting the vast majority of face coverings, including scarves and hand-sewn masks.

“Wearing a face covering is a responsibility we all share. An effective covering, worn properly, is one of the best ways we can control the spread of COVID-19 to protect our team members and customers.”

Alison Taylor, Chief Customer Officer, American Airlines

In a bid to restore confidence in their customers, carriers such as Alaska Airlines and United have adopted the strict “no mask, no travel, no exceptions” approach. The only exceptions are young children and for those who wearing a mask could be dangerous.

Do you think this ban is a necessary one? Let us know your views on mask wearing in the comments.