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Major Airline CEOs Question The Need For Masks On Planes

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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The CEOs of two of America’s biggest airlines testified Wednesday before Congress that wearing masks don’t do much to stop the spread of COVID-19 on airplanes.

At a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said “masks don’t add much, if anything” to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in an aircraft environment. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker then agreed, saying “The aircraft is the safest place you can be.”

Kelly explained that the air filtration systems on planes keeps contaminated air from circulating amongst the passengers. “The statistics I recall is that 99.97% of airborne pathogens are captured by the [high efficiency particulate air] filtering system, and it’s turned over every two or three minutes,” he explained. “It’s very safe, and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”

“They all have these HEPA filters and the same airflow,” Parker said. (RELATED: Pete Buttigieg Admits Plane And Train Mask Requirements Are About ‘Respect’ Rather Than Science)

Despite the air filtration systems on planes, they remain one of the areas where masking is required due to COVID-19. President Joe Biden’s administration recently extended the mask mandate on airplanes into next year.

Mask mandates have been one source of an increase in incidents with unruly passengers on aircraft this year.