ASTA Says FAA Mask Mandate is Needed to Bring Back Air Travel

The American Society of Travel Advisors’ (ASTA) President and CEO, Zane Kerby, today sent a message aimed toward the airline industry and U.S. government authorities, calling urgently for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to step in to officially regulate and enforce mask-wearing policies in the air travel sector.

ASTA has been conducting a series of surveys fortnightly throughout the pandemic to gauge public sentiment and consumer confidence relating to the travel industry. Kerby said that its cumulative findings suggest that people would be much more willing to resume flying if they could be certain that others, with whom they’d be sharing close quarters, would adhere to health and safety measures—mask-wearing being chief among them.

In the absence of a uniform, federally-enforced regulation, and without the means to implement reliable, rapid-response viral testing at airports as a fallback measure, “this inconsistency is holding back travel’s recovery,” Kerby said.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most major U.S. airlines already require as part of their company policies that both passengers and employees wear masks or appropriate face coverings throughout the travel journey. However, without official backing from the FAA, they ultimately lack the authority to enforce these rules among customers who won’t toe the line.

He argued that the impediment to a widespread resumption of commercial travel isn’t a dampening of people’s desire to go out and explore the world, but, rather, it comes down to Americans’ reluctance to resume activities that put them in close proximity to strangers they can’t be certain will behave responsibly.

He sees an FAA-mandated mask requirement as an easy fix and a key solution for setting the industry back on a course toward recovery. “More Americans want to return to the skies,” he said. “For them to feel safe doing so, the federal government needs to step up. It’s time for the FAA to mandate mask-wearing on all flights.”

ASTA’s pandemic-era surveys have consistently found that consumers’ willingness to resume any activity, “is tied to their ability to control the health risks of that given experience,” Kerby wrote. He elaborated that, “the desire to control personal health risk, and the fear that others are not doing their part, are powerful deterrents to travel.”

“Our research confirms that a clearly-communicated and uniformly-enforced FAA mask requirement will sharply increase the public’s confidence in flying and help millions more return to the nation’s skies,” Kerby summarized.

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