As US airlines push to have in-flight mask mandates lifted on the federal level, mask-optional European airlines are seeing hundreds of flight cancelations due to (yep, you guessed it) out-of-commission employees sick with Covid-19.
For instance, Swiss-based EasyJet lifted mask requirements on March 27 and, lo and behold, cancelled 202 of its 3,517 flights between March 28–April 3 due to Covid illness, according to CBS. During the same time in 2019, the number of cancellations was zero. As in 0.
"So damn predictable — UK govt drops restrictions, airlines like @easyJet drops masks … and less than 2 weeks later … huge spike in pilots and flight attendants out sick with #COVID19 unable to work, and 120 flights cancelled! Airline CEOs asked for this," Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, said on Twitter.
And it's not just EasyJet. For instance, during the same week, British Airways cancelled 393 of 2,405 flights for Covid reasons, although they're trying to pin the blame on other Covid-related reasons rather than their new mask-optional policy.
Between March 28 and April 3, British Airways cancelled 393 of 2,405 flights scheduled to depart from the UK, according to Cirium.
A British Airways spokesperson said that only a small share of its recently cancelled flights were scrapped because of COVID-19. The spokesperson said the airline on Tuesday cancelled three flights at the last minute due to personnel testing positive for the disease, adding that some of the cancellations stemmed from issues related to rebuilding "operations while managing the continuing impact of COVID."
"So while the vast majority of our flights continue to operate as planned, as a precaution we've slightly reduced our schedule between now and the end of May as we ramp back up," the spokesperson said.