Southwest CEO: Masks dont add much, if anything against COVID-19 on planes – Fox Business

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told a U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday that “masks don’t add much, if anything” in fighting the spread of COVID-19 on airplanes, calling into question the reasoning behind mask mandates on flights imposed both by airlines and the Biden administration.

Kelly made the comment during a hearing on airline oversight before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and other industry chiefs joined him in emphasizing that commercial aircraft filtration systems make them the safest indoor space there is.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly

Gary Kelly, chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines Co., speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Bloomber (Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)


Ranking member Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., asked the CEOs about air quality on planes while posing the question, “Will we ever be able, do you think, to get on an airplane without masks?”

Speaking to discussions on air quality, Kelly said, “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.”

“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” Kelly said. “It’s very safe, and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”

Sen Roger Wicker

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) during hearing at the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on January 26, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images) (Photo by Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Image / Getty Images)


Wicker then asked for a response from American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, who replied, “I concur. The aircraft is the safest place you can be – it’s true of all of our aircraft. They all have these HEPA filters and the same airflow.”

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told Wicker that, in fact, air quality on planes is “safer, actually, than an intensive care unit,” adding that “being next to someone on an airplane – sitting next to them – is the equivalent of being 15 feet away from them in a typical building.”

But most places in the U.S. no longer require masks indoors, save for certain Democrat-controlled jurisdictions and areas under federal oversight.

Airlines imposed mask requirements on their own in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and several welcomed President Biden’s federal mandate for wearing masks on commercial flights after he took office. The federal rule was slated to expire in September, but the Transportation Security Administration extended it through Jan. 18.

(Photo by Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 21, 2021 at U.N. headquarters in New York City. . (Photo by Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images)  ((Photo by Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images) / Getty Images)


The mask requirements have caused major headaches for airlines in the way of compliance, with mask violations being the major cause of a sharp uptick in unruly behavior from passengers. In response, the FAA has upped the fines on violations for fliers who disrupt air travel and urged airlines to “take more action” on unruly passenger incidents.

Airlines have not pushed back publicly against the mandate. 

When asked by FOX Business for further explanation on Kelly’s comments, Southwest said in a statement, “Southwest Airlines continues to abide by the federal mask mandate for customers and employees both within the airport environment and onboard all Southwest aircraft.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *