Story at a glance
- President Biden’s mask mandate on planes and in airports is set to expire in May, but flight attendants are urging an extension through September.
- Nelson argued that the U.S. is “still in the middle of the crisis and should not relax existing restrictions.”
- Nicholas Calio, CEO of the trade group Airlines for America said at the hearing that he agrees with Nelson about the need for an extension.
President Biden’s mask mandate on planes and in airports is set to expire in May, but flight attendants are urging an extension through September.
President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Sara Nelson, during a meeting of the Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation subcommittee on Wednesday, argued that the U.S. is “still in the middle of the crisis” and should not relax existing restrictions, USA Today reported.
“I do think it’s important that we recognize that and stay the course here with the mask policies, with all of our diligence (and) with the efforts to get the vaccine out to everyone,” Nelson said.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents United, Alaska, Spirit and Frontier have been distributing stickers saying “Get vaxxed, wear a mask and come fly with us” to vaccinated flight attendants, according to the outlet.
Nicholas Calio, CEO of the trade group Airlines for America, said at the hearing that he agrees with Nelson about the need for an extension.
But some Republican lawmakers expressed skepticism about a timeline with no apparent end date.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said mask mandates have to eventually end and asked Leonard Marcus, director of the Aviation Public Health Initiative at Harvard, how policy makers will know when to lift restrictions.
“Or are we just going to know it when we see it and just feel our way along until somebody finally says this is totally pointless to do this any further,” Wicker said.
The airline industry has suffered since the beginning of the pandemic, and airlines have made major cuts. American Airlines announced Thursday voluntary buyouts resulting in 1,600 employees leaving the company. The airline said it lost $1.25 billion in the first quarter of 2021.
American CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Islom told employees in a note that the “pandemic is far from over,” CNBC reported.
“But as our world makes daily strides in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, customers are returning to travel and there is no doubt the pace of the recovery is accelerating,” they wrote.
Update: An earlier version of this story stated that American Airlines laid off 1,600 employees. In fact, those employees left the company voluntarily as part of an early exit program.
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