Although almost 50,000 Americans die on U.S. highways every year, that’s nothing compared to the 465,000 known U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus. And after dealing with the coronavirus for nearly a year, including flying and Covid-19, the U.S. finally has an established nationwide mask mandate for airplanes and public transportation.
Flying and Covid-19
So if you plan to fly in the near future, like over 2.7 million passengers who went in and out of U.S. airports every day before the pandemic, you’ll need to comply with the new mandate regarding flying and Covid-19 if you want to be allowed on board. If you don’t, you’ll be subject to strict fees and booted from the plane — and you could even become the star of the next anti-masker viral video.
Despite the fact that former President Trump signed a COVID-19 relief bill into law on March 27, 2020 to provide at least $500 billion in economic distress funding for American businesses, no action was taken pertaining to a wide-sweeping mask mandate until President Biden took office in January 2021.
Before that, individual airline companies were responsible for establishing and enforcing their own mask-wearing policies — to varying levels of success. But now, instead of the burden lying solely on employees, the federal government provides some much-needed support for those who need to uphold these health regulations.
What Happens if You Try to Fly Without Wearing A Mask?
Under the executive order signed by President Biden two days after his inauguration, travelers who refuse to wear face coverings in airports and on commercial aircraft (as well as bus and rail stations) can face fines of $250 for their first offense and up to $1,500 for repeat offenses, with the possibility of even higher fines for aggravating circumstances.
The TSA noted that its agents will enforce these fines regarding flying and Covid-19, and that airline and other transportation employees can report those who violate the mandate to their agency.
Airlines Applauding the New Mandate
The new mandate regarding flying and Covid-19 notes that masks must cover the wearer’s nose and mouth completely, fit snugly against the sides of the face, and be free of any holes, valves, or slits. Masks made of cloth must consist of at least two layers of tightly-woven fabric.
Most airlines and transportation agencies have applauded the mandate. Airlines throughout the U.S. have already banned more than 2,000 passengers for their refusal to follow policies pertaining to face coverings, while events involving unruly traveler behavior have gone up significantly during the pandemic — despite the fact that far fewer people are flying.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced that passengers who interfere with, threaten, or physically assault airline crew members or others onboard airplanes can face fines of up to $35,000 and potential imprisonment. One flight attendant, in a statement to the media, noted that flight attendants are tired of playing “babysitter for adults,” so the federal enforcements have been welcomed with open arms.
In other words, if you plan on traveling, you’ll also need to plan on mask-wearing (unless you have a medical exemption from a doctor and a negative COVID test, for some airlines).
What Type of Masks Are You Required To Wear on a Plane?
The latest recommendations regarding the type of masks required for flying and Covid-19 are basically the same as what the CDC is currently advising the public. Given that the more contagious strains of COVID-19 are now making their way through the U.S. and are expected to become dominant in just a few months’ time, experts recommend double-masking in public places.
On an airplane, you can wear a paper mask underneath a cloth one or opt for an N95 mask, if you can get one. Note that face shields, which can be worn as a supplement to a face mask, are not adequate on their own. You might consider bringing along some extras to change out during your journey.
Be sure to take advantage of your plane’s air filtration system, bring lots of sanitizing wipes along, and refrain from touching your face during your flight.
Final Thoughts on Flying and Covid-19
Ultimately, flying and Covid-19 will always involve some level of risk. But now that masks are federally required and airlines have had a chance to adapt to more stringent cleanliness regulations, many are hopeful that traveling will be a bit less dangerous — if not all that enjoyable.