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The head of the International Association of Flight Attendants union is calling for a federal mandate requiring all airline passengers to wear masks while blaming rising opposition to facial coverings on the Trump administration.
In an interview with CNN, Sara Nelson was asked to comment on recent incidents regarding passengers and flight crew interactions over masks.
One incident involved a pair of Delta Air Line passengers who were removed from a Detroit-to-Atlanta flight after refusing to don a mask, per the carrier’s policy. The plane returned to the terminal, thereby slightly delaying the flight.
In another incident, two passengers were arrested on a KLM flight to Spain after becoming combative and “unruly” over their refusal to don a mask.
“Well, unfortunately, we’re seeing a rise of people who are refusing to wear the masks, and that has a lot to do with the leadership and the sort of narrative that is being put out from the leadership and our government that this is about a political decision rather than a public health decision,” Nelson said, suggesting that the White House is somehow to blame.
“And that’s unfortunate because that puts us on the front lines having to deal with that,” Nelson continued.
The flight attendant union chief praised Delta Air Lines for enforcing its mask rule but said that air carriers themselves should not have to deal with it.
“Really, we should have a federal mandate for everyone to wear a mask just like we have a federal mandate that you cannot smoke on a flight because it threatens everyone else’s safety and health,” Nelson added.
The two also discussed carrier bans of passengers who have refused to wear masks, though as of this writing, the Federal Aviation Administration is not recommending them.
“There’s talk of airlines coordinating on banning people who have been banned on other airlines’ flights as well,” Nelson said. “So, we have to take this really seriously.”
She also wants a federal mandate to have legal teeth so that passengers can be punished.
“But if we had a federal mandate, we would also have the backing of consequences — felonies and fines that would come with this action,” she said. “And this is what happens in aviation, you have to come to the door of the airplane with the spirit that we’re all in this together for us to get safely from one place to another.
“That’s just the way it works,” she added.
Nelson isn’t the only one calling for punitive action to be taken against passengers who don’t wear masks.
In a Twitter post, CNN analyst and former Obama Department of Homeland Security policy adviser Juliette Kayyem referenced the Delta Air Lines incident and called on the FAA “adopt a ‘no mask’ list” to “permanently ban passengers” who don’t wear masks during flights.
“@FAA should adopt a “no mask” list — much like ‘no fly’ list for terror suspects — and permanently prohibit passengers like this from booking flights on any airlines (not just Delta). Call it ‘total jerks’ list if you want, ‘complete asses’ list if it makes you feel better,” she wrote.
.@FAA should adopt a "no mask" list — much like "no fly" list for terror suspects — and permanently prohibit passengers like this from booking flights on any airlines (not just Delta). Call it "total jerks" list if you want, "complete asses" list if it makes you feel better. https://t.co/ehXGOmMX39
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) August 2, 2020
Last week, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said scores of people have been added to the company’s ‘no-fly list’ for refusing to wear a mask in-flight.
“If you board the plane and you insist on not wearing your mask, we will insist that you don’t fly Delta into the future. We already have over 100 people we’ve put on that list,” he said in an interview with NBC News.
What happens if I don’t wear a mask on a plane? – @WillieGeist
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) July 22, 2020
Nelson also suggested to Cabrera that union officials were working to preemptively get some passengers banned for posting instructions on social media about how to get out of wearing masks.
“Some people have put up videos on social media showing ways to get around wearing a mask on flights, and you can be very clear that we’re getting those to the airlines and working to ban those people up front as well,” she said.
Late last month, pro-Trump personality David J. Harris posted a video to Instagram documenting his mask-less flight aboard American Airlines, in which he noted a couple taking issue with him over it.
“If you have a medical reason, you do not have to comply. There are lots of conditions on the list,” Harris said in the video caption. “Know your rights! Know the truth! And please know, unless you’re wearing an N95 mask, any cloth covering or ear loop will not stop you from getting it!”
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