Editorial: Airline passengers refusing to mask is disturbing -- and dangerous

  • Masks are federally mandated aboard aircraft, but some passengers are still fighting the rule.

    Masks are federally mandated aboard aircraft, but some passengers are still fighting the rule. Associated Press file photo

Posted5/12/2021 1:00 AM

It may be a while since you've flown anywhere even remotely exotic, but we all know the drill.

Secure your carry-ons.


Close your tray before takeoff.

Buckle your seat belts.

Stay seated until the seat belt sign is turned off.

And in the age of COVID-19, of course, there's one more: Keep your mask on.

It's a simple rule -- and a federally mandated one. Yet, passengers are refusing to follow it and fighting with their flight attendants at an alarming rate.

As Marni Pyke reported in her Intransit column Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration is reporting a "disturbing increase" this year in travelers disrupting flights with threats or violence that stem in part from a refusal to follow the rules and wear masks. Since February, the FAA has received more than 1,300 unruly-passenger reports from airlines.

Fines of up to $35,000 and possible imprisonment can follow, and some airlines have created their own consequences by banning passengers who cause a stir over face coverings.

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Good for them.

As passengers, we are customers of the airlines. Their plane, their (and the federal government's) rules.

You don't like them? Stay home -- or drive.

Keeping a mask on throughout the flight is not only about following rules; it's about protecting the crew and your fellow passengers.

Yet, for a reason that is hard for sensible folks to fathom, resistance can turn nasty and even violent.

A man on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Sacramento on Jan. 26 was ordered off a flight after becoming combative, and he struck an attendant with his bags on the way out. The next month, a JetBlue Airlines passenger who refused to wear a mask followed up by throwing food, tossing an empty alcohol bottle and assaulting two flight attendants.

Tantrums like these are dangerous and shamefully selfish.

When you're on board a packed plane, with inches between you and your seatmates, you can't just think of yourself. You have to watch out for those around you.


Refusing to wear a mask -- then compounding that act of defiance with verbal and physical abuse directed at airline workers doing their jobs by enforcing federal mandates -- puts everyone at risk.

Dennis Tajer, an Arlington Heights resident and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association representing American Airlines, summed it up perfectly: "There's no time for debate when you're in a metal tube at 30,000 feet."

And, we might add, no need for this particular debate when health and safety are at stake.

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