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For months flight attendants have been at the forefront of dealing with unruly passengers creating a stir on flights in large part due to the federal mask mandate on aircraft and airports in the U.S., which went into effect in February.
Flight attendants, the frontline workers in the cabin, have been bearing the brunt of passenger ire in most cases, with one in five attendants experiencing physical assaults.
They are the ones being spit at, yelled at, or cursed at over the enforcement of the federal mask mandates. And, despite all this, they support the extension of the mask mandate announced this week.
President Joe Biden’s administration plans to extend requirements for travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations through January 18 to address ongoing Covid-19 risks, a Transportation and Security Administration spokesperson said in an email to Skift.
With nowhere to run to in the air, it would be plausible to think these frontline workers might be the first ones pushing for the mask mandates to end quickly and diminish the rising cases of unruly passengers in the air.
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson offered her support on requiring people to wear masks on planes for an extended period.
“We all look forward to the day masks are no longer required but we’re not there yet. Let’s focus on putting Covid-19 in check together,” she said on Tuesday night after the news broke.
Nelson, who represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants across 17 airlines, said masks are the most effective tool to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“While vaccination has been key to the increased air travel demand, the lagging vaccination rates and rise of the Delta variant has caused cases to skyrocket again – threatening lives, continued virus mutation, and recovery from this pandemic,” she said.
Nelson said they have a responsibility in aviation to keep everyone safe and do their part to end the pandemic rather than aid its continuation.
The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of Covid-19 on public transportation, the TSA spokesperson said.