Airline CEO Is 'Absolutely Convinced' In-flight Mask Protocols 'Will Stay Forever'

Masks in airport
Masks in airport

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Travelers have been masking up on planes for nearly two years — and the CEO of one European airline thinks the protocol is here to stay.

"We have put into place so many additional protocols," TAP Air Portugal CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener said, as she visited TAP employees in Newark this week, according to Skift. "I am absolutely convinced they will stay forever."

Individual airlines in the United States have enforced mask policies throughout the pandemic and were federally regulated until January 2021. The mandate has since been extended and is currently in place until at least March 18, 2022.

Different airlines have different policies when it comes to what kind of mask is acceptable on board. Some, like Air France and Lufthansa, have mandated passengers wear medical masks, while others, like United Airlines, don't allow bandanas.

Masks have also become a point of contention on planes in the U.S. Thousands of incidents of unruly passengers were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration last year, many of which concerned people who refused to comply with the federal transportation mask mandate. The Transportation Security Administration has said the agency will revoke membership to its TSA PreCheck program for anyone who is fined by the FAA for bad behavior.

Beyond masks, Ourmières-Widener said other protocols like more stringent aircraft cleaning and vaccine mandates could all remain in place.

"We are still very cautious," she said. "The pandemic is about to be gone. The recovery will take time."

But Ourmières-Widener added that she would like to see global protocols in place.

"We are just pushing to have one voice, one protocol that could be accepted," she said.

In addition to masks, travelers who are looking for a little boost of protection from viruses like the flu should choose a seat near the window as it is the most isolated seat on the plane.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.