Airline Mask Mandates Not Enough


©The Talon News | Cate Clark

Passengers on Dec. 26 United Airlines flight back from Kalispell, Montana, are required to wear a face mask under new COVID-19 restrictions. (Cate Clark | The Talon News)

Owen Norkett, Reporter

Whether it is a daily commute to work, transportation of goods, or a flight for a well-deserved vacation, it is clear that travel to any capacity helps the world continue to function. With this in mind, it is clear that transportation is something that has to stay open and maintained throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. In regards to air travel, however, a new issue arises, that being the heightened spread of the virus with new variants.

While it is true that federal law and company policy requires the usage of masks both on airport property, this clearly has not prevented the spread of the virus on a global scale. When looking at public transportation in general, it is entirely apparent that masks alone do not serve their intended purpose. Though mask enforcement is not a bad first step, this is not enough to make a difference considering the current conditions. Due to the sheer necessity of expedited travel, planes are severely overbooked and overcrowded. Airlines are even going so far as to offer passengers fairly sizable sums of money to forfeit their seats to other passengers and take later flights to accommodate for the overselling of tickets on flights. Planes at this point are crammed, there is no questioning that. Without enforcement of social distancing practices, both in airports and on planes, the virus will continue to spread almost just as quickly as it would without masks. At this point, masks are more for show than for anything else.

While airlines might argue that they are struggling and need to pack the seats to help minimize losses due to the pandemic, they are only setting themselves up for further failure as the increased spread that is occurring now will only cause things to shut down again and set them to square one. This current course of action from airlines is not only morally questionable in that it values profits over safety, but it is also counterproductive in the sense that it is not preventing the spread of the virus to any significant extent, making further economic stagnation more likely.

Simply put, there is one truly productive solution to this problem. Though there is room to argue that masks should not be enforced entirely since they are currently counterproductive within this context, this still would not truly address the greater problem, that being the pandemic. Masks can be annoying or inconvenient but are not really a big deal at the end of the day. The true solution is to begin enforcement of social distancing regulations within all facets of air travel. Companies need to limit the amount of tickets that they sell for flights, and security needs to enforce distancing if they truly want to tackle the pandemic, which is supposedly their intent. This would help prevent the spread of the virus and help further society back into some sense of normalcy.

When looking to address the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly under the lens of transportation, it is clear that masks are not enough. To slow the spread of the virus in general, both airline companies and the government need to take action and accountability by prioritizing the safety of both passengers and staff through the enforcement of social distancing measures. If people wish to see the pandemic come to an end to prevent all of the inconveniences that accompany it, they should begin to adhere to and advocate for these changes which will ultimately function as a first step towards the return of the social and political landscape to its prior state.