During Senate hearing, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly gave input on pandemic financial support the industry has received.
The CEOs of two of the nation’s major airlines assert that wearing masks on planes does not help limit exposure to COVID, due to the high quality of airplane ventilation systems.
The comments from American Airlines (AAL) CEO Doug Parker — the nation’s largest carrier — and Southwest (LUV) CEO Gary Kelly came during a hearing about the financial support that airlines received from the federal government in 2020 and 2021. But the topic of masks arose via a question from Sen. Roger Wicker, the ranking Republican on the Senate committee holding the hearing.
“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment. It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting,” said Kelly.
Both Kelly and Parker, who each have announced plans to retire as CEOs in the coming months, mentioned that high-grade HEPA air filters on planes capture virtually all airborne contamination and air quality is helped by how frequently cabin air is exchanged with fresh air from outside the cabin.
“I concur. An aircraft is the safest place you can be,” said Parker. “It’s true of all of our aircraft — they all have the same HEPA filters and air flow.”
Additionally, another airline CEO expanded on the effectiveness of airplane ventilation systems.
Scott Kirby, CEO of Chicago-based United Airlines, said several studies show that airplane cabins are safe. Those studies are often industry-funded.
“The conclusion of that is that effectively anywhere that you’re going to be indoors, the airplane is the safest place that you can be indoors,” Kirby said. “It’s because the air filters are safer than a theater, safer actually than an intensive care unit because we have HEPA-grade filters.”
Kirby said airplane filters cycle air 20 to 30 times an hour, as opposed to twice or three times an hour in a hospital ICU. The studies from airlines also show that the way the air flows in cabins, from the ceiling to the floor, also reduces the risk of COVID-19 spread among passengers.
During the same hearing, Southwest Airlines promised lawmakers the outages travelers saw earlier this year will not happen for Christmas travel.
Back in June, Southwest Airlines suffered a system-wide meltdown which lead of hundreds of cancelled flights. It happened again in October.
CEO Gary Kelly told the committee several enhancements have been put in place to prevent the problem from happening again.
“We need to make sure we don’t over schedule the airline relative to the people resources we have,” said Gary Kelly, CEO, Southwest Airlines. “We made a number of adjustments in that regard.”
Hopefully, everyone’s holiday travel will be smooth and easy…and we will see the end of these mask mandates early in 2022.DONATE
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