Anti-masks, like cigarette smokers, should not be pampered by airlines

Juno Beach’s Gerald Skoning wrote a guest column for The Palm Beach Post suggesting that commercial airlines should consider a possible flight future that includes seat sections based on mask status.

Separating passengers based on their willingness to obey government guidelines and advice would be a bold experiment. And its implementation dates back to the days when airlines created smoking sections in the cabin for passengers who wanted to light up during a flight.

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“Dividing airliner cabins into smoking and non-smoking sections should be a model for protecting the health of the flying public as the pandemic continues,” Skoning wrote.

“Allowing masked passengers to sit in a section of the plane separate from other travelers without a mask would protect the health and safety of these passengers (up to 99.6% according to the recent study), while taking into account anti-mask measures the “rights” perceived by maskers to go without a mask on airliners. »

Anti-masks on airlines, a symptom of the social divide

While that’s an interesting idea, it misses the real problem here: that it’s increasingly difficult to take a random group of a few hundred Americans, lock them in a confined space for a few hours, and expect everyone to get along well with each other.

Sad but true. We are not just sick. We’re fed up with each other.

We just had a reminder of this recently when a couple got kicked off a JetBlue flight preparing to take off from Palm Beach International Airport.

The couple argued with the passengers surrounding them. There were insults. Free speech rights in the US Constitution have been invoked haphazardly. The soon-to-be-booted woman chided her traveling companions, calling them sheep and throwing out a few “baaaahs” for effect.

Then she summed it up like this:

“We have to get off the plane because we are Trump supporters,” she said. “Seriously, I really think that’s what it is.”

The smoking section put in place by airlines in the last century was based on the idea that if all smokers were together in one section, there would be fewer complaints from non-smokers and less risk to their health.

Usually, smokers were relegated to the back rows of the cabin, which quickly became steeped in a putrid cloud of cigarette smoke that was hard to contain.

If you were seated anywhere near the smoking section, you were going to inhale smoke.

Putting anti-masks in what would be a modern smoking section on airplanes would be just as difficult to contain. While this may indeed better limit the spread of COVID-19, it would do nothing to limit the animosity in the cabin, which is already a big problem in domestic air travel.

Difficult to contain the political debate on the plane

This is because political opinions, like smoke, tend to be worse when concentrated and also have the property of drifting.

So if you split the booth into masks and anti-masks, all the opinionated people would end up being stimulated by the company of like-minded people, while also being exasperated by the sight of all the people in them presence who hold them in low esteem.

Dividing the cabin is like handing out team uniforms. And now that you know where the other team is sitting, it’s easier to get things done with a “Lock them up!” Fauci chant, or a lecture on public responsibility delivered by someone wearing a face shield and standing in the aisle.

Dividing like-minded Americans into separate sections does not seal them tightly. It just makes them more confident.

So suppose the JetBlue passenger was accommodated by a “Trump vote” section of the plane, where she and her husband could fly without feeling the need to lecture nearby passengers about “freedom.”

All it would do is put a Trump rally in part of the plane, with the rest of the cabin pushed back by the “Let’s Go Brandon!” psalmody.

Look what happened to smoking on airplanes.

In February 1990, it was permanently banned on all domestic flights after airlines had to contend with years of lobbying efforts by flight attendants and a scientific study which found that their exposure to second-hand smoke on airplanes was equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. .

At first, the Air Transport Association, the airlines’ trade group, argued that there was no way to prevent passengers from smoking on flights. The ATA has taken the following position: “Smoking is a fact of life; it’s something we have to accommodate.

And the pilots’ union has been equally slow to push for a smoking ban, believing that if smoking were banned on flights, passengers would simply use onboard toilets as smoking lounges.

These arguments seem foolish now, some four decades later.

I think it may seem equally foolish in the future to accommodate people who ignore today’s public health guidelines.

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