The mask-wearing, apple of discord into the aircraft in the United States

Le port du masque, pomme de discorde jusque dans les avions aux États-Unis

Le port du masque, pomme de discorde jusque dans les avions aux États-Unis

Officially, are given masks that passengers who have a medical reason, or very young children.


May 17, 2020 7: 55


The mask-wearing, apple of discord into the aircraft in the United States

Delphine Touitou

Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON — The port of the mask has become a sensitive issue, and policy in the United States, to such a point that the airlines are struggling to impose it on the passengers recalcitrant in the confined space of their aircraft.

Johannes Eisele, photographer at the AFP, made the experience. He has recently taken place on an American Airlines flight between the airport of New York LaGuardia and Charlotte Douglas in North Carolina, stuck between two passengers, one of whom was not wearing a mask.

“I asked him if he had not mask, and he told me that he had a […], but that he felt more comfortable without,” he says.

“I told him that I would feel more comfortable if he wore it, but it to me has told : keep your fears to yourself!”

The flight is full, Johannes Eisele has not been able to change your seat.

It was just before the mask-wearing compulsory on all flights in the united States, which entered into force on Monday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Officially, there are provided that the passengers who have a medical reason, or very young children.

The instructions are clear, it is at American Airlines and at United Airlines: if a client comes to boarding without a mask, he can’t get on the plane.

But the problem remains once the aircraft has taken off. And the companies have, it seems, decided that as a last resort, passengers could remain on the open face.

“If for any reason this regulation disrupts a flight, we advise our seafarers to use their know-how in terms of defusing conflict”, explained to AFP a spokesman for United.

“They also have the ability to assign a different seat on the plane if necessary”, he added. It is also necessary that the plane is not full.

“We do not expect our employees that they control the behavior of our customers”, explained to AFP a spokesman for Southwest Airlines.

In fact, the navigators have no power of coercion. No policeman will wait for the passenger refusing to accept the arrival, indicated to the AFP a source close to Delta Airlines.


An internal note of American Airlines, sent to the AFP, provides instructions to the crews.

If a client chooses to evade this obligation for reasons other than medical or religious, “please encourage them to comply, without further” the incident, adds the note.

Same thing for a client to be “frustrated” to see his neighbor without facial protection : the sailors are called to be discerning “to defuse the situation”.

“During the pandemic, we must in part rely on the good sense and responsibility” of the people, also stressed the spokesperson of the Southwest, suggesting that it was not possible to force a client to comply with this regulation.

In short, in the face of such deep antagonism, the companies have chosen the path of conciliation at the risk of having passengers without a mask.

“I think it is totally irresponsible. If a person does not mask, it should be stopped”, nods approval Jonathan Metzl, professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt university in Nashville.

“Political symbol”

Not wanting to wear a mask in his car is one thing, but in a public transport, which is enclosed, is another, sums up there.

And criminalize the behavior of the host of the White House.

“The president Trump and the republicans have managed to make the mask a political symbol which has close links with xenophobia, racism and other factors,” he said.

They rally the “core” of their base in suggesting that the wearing of a mask is a “sign of submission”, or that people wearing masks are “low”.

Beth Redbird, of Northwestern university, has been leading since the beginning of march a study on the behavior of Americans during the pandemic.

“Those who are sceptical vis-à-vis Donald Trump are in favour of the social distancing” which includes the mask, ” she said. “The independents who support Donald Trump are skeptical”, she adds.

On Thursday, the chairman of the Transport committee of the House of representatives, the democrat Peter DeFazio, has called on the companies to redouble its efforts in terms of social distancing, urging them specifically to maintain a “width of seat between the passengers.”

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