Flight attendants union president: 'Absurd' the FAA has not mandated masks for passengers

Flight attendants union president: 'Absurd' the FAA has not mandated masks for passengers
© Greg Nash

The international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said on Wednesday that it is “absurd” that the federal government has not required airline passengers to wear masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is absurd that the FAA has not done this yet, that DOT has not taken a leadership role here,” Sara Nelson told NBC, referring to the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation, respectively.

“We absolutely need that backing from our government,” she said.

Major U.S. airlines announced in June that masks were required on flights and could be removed to eat or drink. Customers who refused to wear the protective gear could be placed on a do not fly list. 

“We have to be more clear about how people are supposed to wear those masks, what kind of mask etiquette they should practice when they take a drink or go to eat something, and that will keep us the most safe,” Nelson said Wednesday.

She likened the situation to smoking on an airplane, which is a federal offense, in her plea for federal regulations.

Nelson also noted that a flight attendant was recently assaulted by a passenger after asking that person to wear a mask.

“She’s hurt and she is recovering, and the airline is supporting her so I’m grateful for that. But these are the kinds of situations that we’re put in and this risk is very high,” Nelson said.  

Earlier this week, American Airlines reached out to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzUp next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Texas) after photographs emerged of the senator not wearing a mask on a plane. A Cruz spokesperson said that the senator removed his mask to drink coffee when he was photographed. 

Airports across the country also have inconsistent standards for facial coverings. Masks were required inside 20 of the 30 large hub airports in the U.S. as of the end of June.