As some of you may know, I recently returned from an essential trip with two legs in Europe and two across the Atlantic Ocean. Days later, I’m lucky to say that I feel 100%, though I recognize it may be longer before I’m out of the woods. While flying is now in many ways different, I was pleased to see that much remains the same.
You go to an airport, you check in, you empty stuff out of your bag, you pass through a screening machine, you pass time and then you go somewhere.The main difference: you wear a mask…
The trip gave me modest confidence of a return to semi normalcy, or at least the safe movement of people, but there’s certainly an added feeling of anxiety on board, knowing that someone near you may potentially spread the virus people are so understandably worried about, at least for the near future.
It’s why British Airways policy not to mandate face masks, but rather just recommend them (which is new), is slightly odd. It’s fine for BA not to mandate face masks; that’s their right and choice, but after flying recently, I simply won’t be flying with the airline until they do. That’s my right and choice too…
BA reached out to say “I just wanted to let you know that we are asking all customers to wear masks on board”, to which I replied “but that’s just it, you’re asking, not mandating”. Right now, that distinction matters quite a lot.
British Airways has been quoted recently taking the approach that masks don’t keep you safe, which is along with government guidelines in the UK. The thing is – no one is saying masks do everything, they’re just saying that they can do a quite a lot, and British Airways is now one of the few airlines on earth not to specifically make wearing one mandatory.
Most governments say masks are only really effective if everyone is wearing one, so by not specifically making them mandatory, British Airways is actually diminishing the return on safety many passengers are investing in themselves.
Before you go all high and mighty about how masks aren’t perfect, ask yourself the answers to these questions..
- If you were asymptomatic, but did have covid-19, would you feel bad if you gave it to someone who then died from it?
- Would you willingly sit next to someone who refuses to wear a mask, knowing they could infect you?
Lots of people say masks don’t solve everything, but how can you pretend they don’t help? Here’s a video which shows they absolutely do.
If the main method of transmission for covid-19 is droplets, and masks block the vast majority of particles from going as far as they would otherwise, doesn’t that inherently help reduce chances?
Recent social media and news reports describe full BA flights where cabin crew, who are regularly at greater risks of having and spreading covid-19 by virtue of the close proximity to others they’re regularly in, in confined spaces, weren’t even wearing a masks. I find that wild, given my recent experiences.
If there’s one thing that made me feel safe during my journeys, it certainly wasn’t a belief in airline cleaning. It was taking matters into my own hands by disinfecting the seat, and wearing a mask. This belief in safety matters was fueled by regular announcements stating masks must stay on, except for brief nips of food or drinks would help keep someone from getting me sick, or vice versa by the airline operating my flight.
Yes, that’s one of the greatest misconceptions with masks: they’re not so much about keeping what’s in the air out of your mouth, they’re about keeping your stuff out of the air. That way, if everyone keeps their stuff out of the air, they might actually stop something. Even taking one half a meter off the distance a particle travels can be huge in such tight spaces, like economy cabins.
It could also be noted that while British Airways isn’t mandating masks, they have taken the liberty of removing service from all cabins, with nothing but a snack box, tea and water, even in first class. Apparently, pizza and other easy items are being trialled, but are not widely rolled out.
Contrast this with Qatar Airways, which owns a percentage of BA, which is serving full meals and all beverages, albeit in full head to toe PPE gear, and you get a picture of just how odd this all seems.
Why is virtually every other airline mandating face masks for all passengers, and going as far as creating new PPE equipped uniforms for crew, when BA is effectively saying “we’d like you to, but won’t enforce the measures, even for our crew”.
Does British Airways have a crystal ball? Let’s hope so. Signs are emerging that the worst of the virus is well behind us, at least for now. Seasonality and the recently expressed probability that it’s unlikely to get reinfected make the case even stronger, but that does nothing for customer piece of mind, or safety in the interim.