Skip to content

Face masks on flights could be here for years to come, according to experts

Feb. 01, 2022
4 min read
Face protection mask over passport and boarding ticket
Face masks on flights could be here for years to come, according to experts
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Face masks are likely to become a normal part of the travel experience on flights for quite some time.

Even as COVID-19 infection rates begin to plateau, borders reopen and travel restrictions lift, aviation experts say face masks are here for the long haul.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for TPG daily newsletter.

“Get used to them,” is the message from Ryanair’s finance chief, Neil Sorahan, who compared face masks on flights to the liquid restrictions imposed on planes after the Sept. 11 attacks 20 years ago.

“Masks will be something that will be with us for a while longer to come,” said Sorahan. “If that is the price we have to pay for the next few months, into summer — it’s a small price to pay."

“It’s a bit like after 9/11, we ended up with our toiletries in plastic bags, maybe we’ll have to live with masks for a while longer.”

A hot stew of international rules will make it “nigh-on impossible” for individual airlines to allow passengers to fly without masks, making them one of the last travel restrictions to go.

Related: How pilots prepare to land during severe storms

"Until there is a harmonized lifting of mask mandates on flights by governments worldwide it is simpler for airlines to keep the rules in place," a senior aviation source told The Times newspaper.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

According to sources, airlines are waiting for a cross-industry consensus on mask-wearing, and will not break ranks, resolving instead to “act as one."

A number of medical experts have told TPG that, while their sophisticated air filtration systems make passenger planes one of the most coronavirus-safe public spaces a person can be in, face masks remain the final line of defense against infection.

“The primary aim for the mask is to protect the people around you from you, but it is also giving you a layer of protection,” said Dr. Paolo Alves, global medical director for MedAire, which provides medical and safety advice to the airline industry. “Nothing is 100%, in medicine or in life, but I would not go into a place where people weren't wearing masks if I don't know them. Not because masks offer 100% protection, but because I want to minimize my odds of getting it."

Related: If you need to wear a face mask on your next flight, these are your choices

Dr. Julian Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester, said he would wear a surgical mask as a personal rule throughout plane journeys, whether he was told to or not. “I'd wear it through customs at both ends, and in the taxi or train or bus,” he told us. “The only time I'd take it off is when I'm eating. Aside from being vaccinated, masks are the best thing we can do to stay safe.”

British Airways has already confirmed it will continue to make passengers wear face masks on all their flights when the U.K. drops its masking laws next week.

In a statement, the carrier said: “We have no immediate plans to change our mask policy, but keep our policies under review and continue to take advice and guidance from all the appropriate authorities.”

Virgin Atlantic also said that it would continue to review its pandemic health protocols and would “work together across the industry to see when changes can be made."

The news comes two months after the Federal Aviation Authority said it had seen a record rise in unruly behavior aboard flights, the majority of which were over face masks. Earlier this month a flight bound for London had to return to the U.S. following the disruption caused by a passenger who refused to abide by the current rules for face masks on board the flight.

The latest figures for 2022, released last week, showed that of 151 reports of unruly passengers, 92 were related to mask-wearing.

Featured image by Face protection mask and travel documents over trolley bag. Travel and flight rules during coronavirus pandemic crisis in Europe and world (Photo by Stefan Cristian CioataGetty)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 5X points
5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 150,000 points120,000 points
The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Good, Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.