If You Have To Fly, Wear A Face Mask (It’s Really Not A Lot To Ask)

an airplane flying in the sky

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There was a lot of embarrassingly poor messaging (some intentional, some not) surrounding the benefits of wearing face masks when the realities of the pandemic started to hit home a few months ago but, of late, the guidance has improved and it has mostly been straightforward – if you’re in a crowd of people or if you’re inside a building that’s not your home, you should wear a face mask. The recent messaging may be varying slightly from country to country but, in general, the advice is pretty consistent and it’s advice that’s being given to slow down the spread of Covid-19.

While in recent weeks it has been heartening to read reports that fewer and fewer people are choosing to ignore the “wear a mask” advice, it’s clear that there are still a significant number of flyers who, for reasons best known to themselves, are refusing to wear a mask on board an aircraft…and that’s a shame. At a time when we should be doing our best to act in the interests of everyone around us as well as ourselves, this kind of selfishness is, to put it mildly, disappointing.

A key factor surrounding the “should I/shouldn’t I wear a mask?” question that people have to ask themselves is the fact that wearing a mask is more about protecting the people around the mask-wearer rather than about protecting the mask-wearer themselves. For some people life is all about them and if something isn’t about them they’re generally not interested in it. They’re especially not interested if that thing also happens to feel like an inconvenience or if it involves any kind of sacrifice on their part.

You can tell who these people are because they generally tell everybody who makes the mistake of listening to them that “masks don’t work” and, if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself listening to a particular type of imbecile, they’ll tell you that being asked to wear a mask is an “infringement of their civil liberties” and that they “live in a free country”.

Unfortunately for this group the debate surrounding the usefulness of face masks in the battle to stop the spread of Covid-19 was over a long time ago. Anyone with even the most basic understanding of physics can understand that a mask will very obviously prevent the larger droplets expelled through a human mouth or nose (during breathing, coughing, or sneezing) from traveling as far as they may have traveled had a mask not been worn. This isn’t something that’s particularly hard to grasp.

If you have an infection that can be transmitted through the air, it’s a scientific fact that a mask will limit the amount of the pathogen you spread into the air around you when you breathe, cough, or sneeze.

Before anyone tries to play the “I haven’t got symptoms so why should I wear a mask?” card, let’s not lose sight of the fact that a person can be a carrier and transmitter of Covid-19 before showing symptoms, and they can be a carrier and transmitter of Covid-19 without ever showing symptoms at all. Just because someone doesn’t have symptoms doesn’t mean that they’re not spreading the virus every time they exhale. This is a key reason why we should all wear masks when advised to.

Most major airlines have been telling passengers to wear masks for weeks…but apparently some people refuse to listen. We have now reached a point where airlines like American and United are saying that they will be enforcing their face mask policies a lot more rigorously going forward, and Airlines for America has gone as far as to say that anyone well enough to wear a face mask but who refuses to wear one may have their right to fly suspended by the airlines.


If you haven’t got a condition that would worsen if you wear a face mask (and if you’re not a small child) there is absolutely no reason for you not to wear a face mask on board an aircraft. If you refuse to comply with the rules you’re not the kind of person most of us would probably want to share an aircraft with (you’re probably the type of selfish idiot that would insist on collecting their hand baggage during an aircraft evacuation) so the sooner you’re banned from the skies the better.

Note: If you have a condition that would be made worse by the wearing of a face mask there’s a good chance your condition is related to your respiratory system, so I would question why you’re choosing to fly during a pandemic brought on by a virus that attacks the respiratory system?

Clearly we’re going to have situations with people thinking that they’ll be “clever” and who will claim that they have some sort of ailment that precludes them from wearing a mask or face covering when the reality is that they simply don’t want to wear a mask. There’s not going to be much that airlines will be able to do about these people but, with a bit of luck, these people will have a few friends with a bit more community spirit and a bit more common sense who will shame them into not repeating the trick or, better yet, not performing the trick in the first place. They’ll be doing all of us a favor.

Bottom Line

Wearing a face mask may not prevent you from contracting Covid-19 but it will definitely help limit the spread of Covid-19 if you’re a carrier. If you’re not a small child and you don’t suffer from a condition that would worsen if you wear a face mask, please do as the airlines are asking and wear a face mask on board. In the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t a lot to ask.


  1. I agree with what you say, problem is there is a time limit on wearing masks even for healthy people. You need a break of 30min every 3hrs, subtracting time in airport there is not allot left. If you don’t want Pulmonary edema.

    What do you think of airlines giving pax masks and face shields, crew in complete hazmat suits (Qatar) reducing contact and talking with passengers, plating food in business class.

    • @Soren, Possibly it is better to take your mask off every few hours on a long haul and enjoy a diet Pepsi. That’s within AA and UA’s rules. As far as the Hazmet suits, it’s over the top! An FDA approved mask will get the job done.

  2. It completely astounds me that so many people think Covid is “over” while people are still dying by the thousands or even more ridiculous, that Donald Trump has made a political calculation that he’s more likely to be re-elected if everyone sticks their head in the sand and refuses to believe the statistics, play “follow the leader” and refuse to wear a da*m mask!

    You may think you have a right to stupidly refuse to follow the rules during a pandemic to refuse to comply but you do not! Your rights end where my right to survival begins. And yes, an airline has every legal right to refuse you entry if you do not comply!!!!. America may be a free country but that does not make it OK for you to light your neighbor’s house on fire because you want to. How arrogant!

    Last, even the most “me, me, only me” type person out there can find a way to make this mask thing about “you” and not just everybody else. Purchase an N95 or KN95 respirator mask. They used to be strictly available to Healthcare providers but now, you can easily find them for sale on the Internet. The 2 models are the same but the KN is made in China and that is what they call it.

    Find one that is FDA or NIOSH approved and for less than $10.00 you can block 95% of particles less than 0.02 microns form reaching “you” as well as protecting your neighbor from you. That way, you become normal(?) without abandoning your “it’s all about me” philosophy. I had a family member come down with Covid and luckily survive. She is 37 years old and in good health. Believe me, you do not want that experience and as a frequent traveler, neither do I.

    Fly safe

  3. Thank you. Most of the travel blogs are full of “maskholes” who insist that the virus is a scam and bang on about their Rights. It is refreshing to read a blog where science and common sense prevail. Count me in as a long term subscriber. BTW I love travel, buy business class Tix with money, and miles, am life time Plat with AA. Can’t wait to fly again, but not til this poop storm is in the rear view mirror.

  4. I wear a mask for eight hours a day, while bending and walking and climbing ladders in 80 degree temps. It can certainly be done sitting down in a cool dark plane.

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