Return of the mask requirement? Flight attendants are becoming infected more and more frequently – flights are being cancelled

On board US aircraft
Return of the mask requirement? Flight attendants are becoming infected more and more frequently – flights are being cancelled

With a few exceptions, flight attendants have had to wear mouth and nose protection at work for more than two years.

© Imago Images

The consequences of the relaxation of the corona measures in Great Britain and the USA in air traffic are shown by the rapidly increasing number of illnesses among flying personnel. The US government has appealed the lifting of the mask requirement in traffic.

Happy too soon? The spontaneous cheering of passengers at the captain’s announcement on a flight from Florida to New York is only one side of the coin: On April 19, the captain announced the decision of a federal judge from Florida over loudspeakers that the nationwide mask requirement on public transport unlawful and repealed. In videos uploaded to social media channels, the passengers show their enthusiasm for the judge’s decision, which they applaud.

Initial experience gained by British airlines shows what the consequences of removing mouth and nose protection in public transport and thus also for the airline industry will be. These are considered pioneers in the easing on board. As early as March 22, the low-cost airline Easyjet announced that the mask requirement was lifted on UK domestic flights and on flights to Denmark, Gibraltar, Iceland and Hungary.

The measure “gives an additional boost to Easter trips,” said Easyjet boss Johan Lundgren. “We remain confident in our plans to achieve flight offerings close to 2019 levels this summer,” he said in a press release.

Flight cancellations due to lack of staff

The second side of the coin: But already between March 28 and April 3, Easyjet had to cancel 202 of its 3,517 flights that were supposed to start from Great Britain, according to the aeronautical analysis company Cirium. In the comparison period three years ago, on the other hand, not a single flight from Great Britain was canceled.

According to an Easyjet spokesman, the cancellations are due to an “above-average level of sick leave among employees”, which in turn can be attributed to the recent increase in Covid 19 cases.

For the epidemiologist Eric Feigl thing from Washington DC, the infections were “damn predictable,” he writes on Twitter. “The UK Government is dropping restrictions, airlines like Easyjet are dropping the masks… and in less than two weeks… (there is) a huge surge in pilots and flight attendants being ill and unable to work due to #Covid-19, will be 120 flights cancelled! The airline bosses asked for it”.

The situation was similar at British Airways in early April: According to Cirium, 393 of 2,405 planned flights from Great Britain were canceled. In the United States, US airlines are now also fearing a new wave of corona outbreaks and staff shortages. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, United Airlines had to cancel hundreds of flights in December after too many flight attendants went into domestic isolation and were no longer available for assignments.

Just one day after the judge’s decision in Florida, the US government appealed against the lifting of the mask requirement on public transport. US health officials have concluded that masks remain “necessary to protect public health,” a spokesman said.

The restrictions have only fallen in US domestic traffic, but wearing a mask is still mandatory on international routes such as transatlantic flights to airports in EU countries. “In healthcare, we try to avoid accidents. The medics are basically mechanics trying to fix cars after they crash,” writes epidemiologist Feigl-Ding on Twitter, asking who thinks like that: “Oh, today Don’t we have to buckle up because there are still enough free beds in the hospital?”

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