Russian airline is designating special seating for passengers who refuse to wear masks
By Shannon McMahon
Russian airline Aeroflot, which mandates masks on its flights, said this week that it will designate a special section for passengers who refuse to wear face coverings after boarding.
The announcement came a day after the airline said it was doubling down on enforcing its in-flight mask requirement.
According to Reuters, an Aeroflot spokeswoman told reporters that "dedicated seats are allocated to passengers who declare their refusal to use masks after (the aircraft's) doors close." Airline spokeswoman Yulia Spivakova told Reuters that the measure was a necessary and common one. It is unclear which other airlines if any, reseat unmasked passengers who violate airline rules.
On Monday, the airline had issued a news release reinforcing its mask requirements: "Passengers who can't wear masks for medical or other reasons will not be admitted to flight."
Spivakova's comments the following day seem to signal exceptions can be made if a passenger refuses to wear a mask once the flight is already underway. She noted that unmasked passengers could still face consequences, according to CNN, and that reseating "does not exclude the application of other measures of liability for violation of the rules."
Russia has seen 2.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the World Health Organization. The government of the Russian Federation requires face coverings be worn on public transit and in crowded public areas, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow says on its website.
Epidemiologists have cited face coverings as an important step to reducing the spread of the coronavirus on planes. Transmission of the virus has occurred on flights strictly enforcing masks, with experts in Ireland and New Zealand recently linking outbreaks to long-haul flights to those countries.
Studies that have suggested high-efficiency air filtration on planes significantly lower passengers' risk for contracting the coronavirus came to that conclusion on the assumption that mask use is enforced in the plane cabin. Experts have noted that those studies also do not account for passengers' removal or incorrect use of face coverings, or for movement inside the plane cabin.