Airlines across the pond have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights after a COVID-19 surge resulted in staff shortages. Why the surge? Plenty of airlines have dropped mandates requiring staff and passengers to mask up while in the air, CBS News reports. It could be a sign of things to come should the United States follow suit and drop its own mask mandates.
Here’s a little more from the article that uses one airline, EasyJet, as an example:
Masks have not been required on flights operated by budget-friendly, Swiss airline EasyJet since March 27, the airline said in a statement. The move came after the UK removed all travel restrictions earlier in March.
Between March 28 and April 3, EasyJet cancelled 202 of its 3,517 flights scheduled to depart from the UK, according to data provided to CBS MoneyWatch from Cirium, an aviation analytics company. By comparison, the carrier cancelled zero flights departing from the UK during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
An EasyJet spokesperson attributed the increase in cancelled flights to “higher than usual staff sickness levels” due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across Europe.
This could serve as a crucial tipping point for the Biden administration in the U.S. Right now, our federal airline mask mandates are set to lift on April 18, and airline CEOs have been mounting pressure to convince the government to reconsider a renewal or extension of the mandates.
Opting to go maskless will certainly have repercussions, and at this point, the resulting delays or cancellations may be more than the airline industry can handle. Over the past weekend, over 12,000 flights in the U.S. were delayed or cancelled due to a variety of factors, including poor weather, technology issues, and — you guessed it — staffing shortages.
Biden's decision on masks may simply come down to those logistics alone to prevent further shortages in an already-slammed industry.