(Nearly two months after telling flight attendants they were categorically not allowed to wear face shields to protect themselves from possible infection of the novel Coronavirus, American Airlines has done a u-turn and will now flight attendants to use the plastic visors.
The new policy came into effect on July 22 but face shields are only permitted if worn in conjunction with a surgical mask or fabric face covering.
Citing FAA regulations, American Airlines told crew members in late May that face shields were not allowed for safety reasons and that flight attendants caught wearing the extra layer of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) could face disciplinary action.
The same rules also apply to flight attendants, some of whom claimed a medical exemption for not wearing a face mask on duty.
The airline has recently told crew this will no longer be allowed and that they must contact the in-house disability team to “review your options”.
American previously told flight attendants that face shields could pose problems with donning oxygen masks or a fire fighting hood in the event of an emergency, as well as performing CPR, or performing an emergency evacuation.
But a spokesperson for American, says the airline worked with the FAA and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) to gain a special exemption that now permits the use of a face shield.
The CDC says it still isn’t known for sure whether face shields provide any benefit to protect members of the public from COVID-19 and does not recommend the use of face shields in everyday activities.
In one simulation study, however, face shields were shown to reduce immediate viral exposure by 96% when worn by a simulated health care worker within 18 inches of a cough.