Masks Are Critical Part of Layered Aviation Safety and Mitigation of COVID Spread in Air Travel

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 17, 2021) — Following this week’s aviation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee where AFA President Sara Nelson testified along with four airline executives and an economist, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) reminds the public that masks are indeed a key component of creating the safest conditions possible during air travel. While the Delta variant continues to circulate widely in the United States, the CDC said the Omicron coronavirus variant is increasing rapidly and expected to become the dominant strain in the coming weeks. The U.S. is now averaging about 120,000 cases a day. AFA International President Sara Nelson released the following statement:

“Masks are a critical component of aviation safety during this pandemic. We have worked with airlines and the federal government to ensure multiple safety measures are in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 onboard. Because of that work, when all of the protocols are followed the aircraft cabin is one of the most controlled environments in public life. The layered safety protocols including sanitation of the aircraft, HEPA filtration on most planes, the federal mask mandate, and limited onboard service. 

“But over the last few months as cases dropped and vaccinations climbed, some of these protocols were loosened. We cannot and should not let our guard down, especially as COVID cases are spiking again. Our youngest passengers under five still don’t have access to the vaccines, nor do individuals who are traveling for medical purposes and cannot safely get vaccinated. 

“As this surge shows, we are still in the middle of this pandemic. To ensure the health of aviation workers and the economic recovery of our industry, we must continue applying these important public health measures throughout our aviation system for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. This includes running the air filtration system while on the ground on planes where HEPA filters are present too. 

“We all look forward to the day when masks are no longer needed. We need everyone to get vaccinated to make this possible. As we've said for months, get vaxxed, boosted, wear a mask, be kind and come fly with us.”


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, (AFA) AFL-CIO represents nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 17 airlines. AFA is the union that has advanced the Flight Attendant profession for 75 years, beating back discrimination and improving wages, benefits, working conditions, and aviation safety, health and security in the aircraft cabin. AFA also partners with the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at

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