CEOs of Southwest and American Airlines claim masks ‘don’t add much’ protection from Covid onboard planes

by Tyler Woods

During a congressional hearing this week, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker both testified that masks do not add much additional protection from Covid onboard planes.

Speaking at a congressional hearing on the government’s stimulus support of the airline industry, Kelly and Parker both addressed a question from Senator Roger Wicker R.MS over the effectiveness of mask mandates have on planes.

Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly said “masks don’t add much.” He further added that, “the statistics, I recall, is that 99.97 percent of airborne pathogens are captured by the HEPA[high-efficiency particulate air] filtering system, and it’s turned over every two or three minutes,” Kelly said.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker concurred with Kelly’s assessment of mask efficacy.  He further added, “the airplane is the safest place you can be indoors.”

Their comments immediately drew outrage from Democrat Senator Ed Markey.

Markey voiced his displeasure with their comments when he said, “I’m shocked that some of the CEOs here today have suggested we no longer need masks mandates on planes,” he said. “In the face of Omicron, children under five who still cannot be vaccinated….and that we still allow unvaccinated people on planes, Markey concluded.

Not surprisingly, given the outrage, the CEOs’ comments caused the pro-mask groups in the media and in Congress, a spokesperson from American Airlines tried to clean up Parker’s comments to assuage their angst.

An American Airlines spokesperson told the New York Post that Parker, “did not intend to cast doubt on the necessity of face masks on planes.”

“As noted in Doug’s testimony, we support the federal mask mandate, and masks are an important part of our commitment to keeping our customers and team members healthy and safe,” the spokesperson continued.

Mask mandates have been a controversial topic since they were implanted during the early days of the pandemic.

There has been contradictory evidence on both sides of the debate, but a large survey from Denmark is often overlooked when questioning the validity of mask mandates.

A study in Denmark found that the masks are not the effective form of protection that we have been led to believe.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen recruited 6,024 participants who had been tested beforehand to be sure they were not infected with the coronavirus.

Half were given surgical masks and told to wear them when leaving their homes; the others were told not to wear masks in public.

The researchers concluded the following in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a medical research publication:

“The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use. The data were compatible with lesser degrees of self-protection.”

The mask debate will continue, but according to two of the airline industry’s most powerful CEOs, masks “don’t add much” to Covid protection onboard airplanes.

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