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Flight attendants union wants mandatory mask usage, suspension of leisure travel

April 24, 2020
3 min read
Flight attendants union wants mandatory mask usage, suspension of leisure travel
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Everyone boarding a plane should be required to wear a mask to help protect both passengers and crews from the coronavirus, the world's largest flight attendant union said this week.

In a letter to the secretaries of both the U.S. Transportation and Health and Human Services departments, the Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson called for protective face masks to become required gear for flight crews and passengers alike.

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"Since flight attendant ability to practice social distancing is challenging in the aircraft cabin and on most other forms of public transportation, it is essential that we wear masks as often as possible so long as COVID-19 remains a threat to public health," she said in the April 23 letter.

Nelson also recommended that the federal government put a temporary ban on leisure travel until the coronavirus pandemic is under control, underscoring the increasing scrutiny being placed on protecting the safety of those flying.

Related: Delta CEO raises prospect of ‘immunity passports’ for air travel.

"Airlines are continuing to deliver people, mail, and cargo, uniting families that are grieving or rushing to be with those who have fallen ill, and transporting others who require medical treatment unrelated to the pandemic. These are some of the many essential services provided by aviation to all of our communities — large and small — that must be maintained as the pandemic continues," she wrote. "We believe that protecting this essential service and ensuring air travel is not aiding in spread of the virus requires a halt to all leisure travel until the pandemic is brought under control according to health authorities."

Nelson's request comes as the ongoing health crisis continues to wreak havoc on the airline industry.

Related: By one metric, Southwest is the world's largest airline (for now).

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Already, at least one carrier, United Airlines — perhaps not coincidentally where Nelson works — has adopted a mandatory mask policy for its crews. Other airlines around the world have adopted policies to give passengers and crews as much physical space onboard as possible.

But, even amid a historic downturn in travel demand, the occasional story about a crowded flight with few health-safety measures enacted continues to surface. Such scenes — like one on an American Airlines flight first reported by the New York Post earlier this week or another in Australia on Qantas last week — may become more common as states and countries move at different paces to ease social distancing restrictions.

Read more: Coronavirus may be making weather forecasts less accurate — and may even change the weather itself.

Nelson cautioned that until the virus is under control, airplanes are going to be a major vector for infection if stringent public health measures aren't put in place around flights.

"While this global system is integral to our modern economy, its essential inter-connectedness also provides a convenient pathway for opportunistic pathogens to hitch rides on unsuspecting crewmembers and travelers and spread all over the world."

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023