The CEOs of two major airlines told Congress that mask mandates for air travel should be lifted, arguing the air in an airliner cabin is safer than any other indoor environment.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly pointed out at a hearing Wednesday that HEPA air filtering systems capture nearly 100% of airborne contamination, exchanging cabin air without outside air every two or three minutes.
Parker said an airliner “is the safest place you can be indoors … far safer than a theater, safer actually than an intensive care unit.”
Kelly asserted “the case is very strong that masks don’t add very much, if anything, in the air cabin environment.”
“It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting,” the Southwest CEO said.
See the airline CEOs’ remarks:
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly: Face masks "don't add much" additional protection against the spread of COVID-19 on airplanes.— Moshe Schwartz (@YWNReporter) December 16, 2021
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker: "The airplane is the safest place you can be indoors… safer than an ICU." pic.twitter.com/SeuCvTCLVQ
The two executives were joined by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Delta Air Lines Chief of Operations John Laughter in the hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
The head of the airline attendants’ union disagreed with the CEOs and said now is not the time to drop the mask mandate.
The Transportation Security Administration requires travelers to wear a mask on airplanes, trains and buses, and in airports and train stations. The mandate recently was recently through March 18, 2022.
Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, insisted the mandate should remain in place, arguing it makes passengers feel safer. And she argued that some older planes don’t have HEPA filters.
“I hope we are going to stay on the same messages and follow the medical experts, and do what’s necessary to keep everybody safe,” she said.
However, studies by medical experts along with data accumulated from over more than a year and a half of mask mandates indicate they are not effective in curbing the spread of the virus. A study from Bangladesh touted by advocates of mask mandates was shown to have fundamental design flaws. And after researchers released more of their data, it was discovered there actually were minuscule infection differences between the treatment and control groups randomized across 600 villages.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, said the call by the CEOs to drop the mask mandate was “immoral.”
“I’m shocked that some of the CEOs here today have suggested we no longer need mask mandates on planes,” he said. “In the face of omicron, (there are) children under 5 who still cannot be vaccinated … and that we still allow unvaccinated people on planes.”
Critics argue that the fact that vaccinated people are required to wear masks illustrates the ineffectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in stopping the spread of the virus. Natural immunity from a previous infection has been shown in 139 studies to be the best way to stop infection and transmission.