APFA Flight Attendants Praise Aviation Leaders for Promoting Mandatory Masks on Airplanes

April 29, 2020
Julie Hedrick, national president of the association of professional flight attendants, praised bipartisan aviation leaders for their April 28th letter to Airlines For America promoting required masks on airplanes for both passengers and crewmembers.

Julie Hedrick, National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, praised bipartisan aviation leaders for their April 28th letter to Airlines For America promoting required masks on airplanes for both passengers and crewmembers. “Thank you Chairman Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member Sam Graves, Chairman Rick Larsen, and Ranking Member Garret Graves for your support and consistent oversight that helps ensure safe transit in the aviation industry. APFA agrees that we need to implement a uniform federal requirement for masks and aviation safety during this public health emergency rather than the patchwork approach we have seen thus far from the airlines. That masks are not yet being required during this pandemic is putting people’s lives at risk,” Hedrick said.

Congressman Steve Cohen’s (TN-9) April 27th letter to regulators also called for a federal mandate that requires both passengers and crew to wear masks on airplanes. “Representative Cohen has a strong track record of supporting Flight Attendants, and we appreciate him voicing the need for a federal regulation that would ensure masks are worn by all on airplanes.” Hedrick continued.

Last week, Hedrick had written to top lawmakers and regulators that the aviation industry must regulate that “every passenger on every flight wear a mask. Anyone who steps on an airplane should take up this practice lest we risk spreading the virus further. These are precautions that must be taken. If we are honest, we all know that without these commonsense steps, our industry will not fully recover, and the virus will not be defeated. APFA continues to aggressively pursue protection for our Flight Attendants from both our company and our regulatory agencies. We are essential frontline workers— transporting critical goods and emergency personnel—and we expect to be treated as such," Hedrick stated.

CDC guidelines instruct our citizens not to gather in groups, to stay out of crowded places, avoid mass gatherings, and to keep 6 feet of distance from other people, even when wearing a face covering. However, these guidelines cannot be followed inside an aircraft. We need our regulatory agencies—DOT, FAA (CAMI), HHS, CDC,—to join with Flight Attendants, epidemiologists, and other experts in forming a national task force immediately so that we can develop science-based safety procedures that mitigate risk for air travelers and crewmembers. So far, the FAA directive has been dangerously insufficient. Terms such as “whenever possible” and “to the extent possible” are not strong enough to ensure our safety. Safety guidance needs to be mandated, not recommended, particularly when lives are at risk.

Since China notified international health officials of the coronavirus on December 31st, 430,000 people have landed in the US on direct flights from China. Both governments estimate that in the two months following the January grounding of direct flights, 40,000 travelers originating in China were able to enter the US through non-direct means. “We know that air travel contributed to the spread of the virus in the US and APFA has been sounding the alarm on this viral outbreak since January. However, air travel can also contribute to flattening the curve, and that is by requiring that all passengers wear masks and follow science-based health and safety procedures. Air travel will be a building block in reactivating the US economy so long as we take the available precautions that keep passengers and crew safe from contracting and or transmitting the virus.”

"As safety professionals, it is our duty to protect the safety of everyone on board the aircraft. This includes doing all that what we can to stop the spread of COVID-19. The CDC tells us that wearing face masks will help to curb the spread of this virus, so we must implement the requirement to wear them on airplanes for both crew and passengers, as we outlined in our letter that was sent to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. If masks are only required for Flight Attendants, we are not doing all that we can to keep our passengers and our crewmembers safe. We all have a role to play in flattening the curve so that we can all return to some semblance of normalcy,” Hedrick concluded.