Masks have not been required on flights operated by budget-friendly, Swiss airline EasyJet since March 27. The move came after the UK removed all travel restrictions earlier in March. The disruptions come as the CEOs of leading U.S. airlines urge the Biden administration requiring that masks be worn in the sky.

Between March 28 and April 3, EasyJet cancelled 202 of its 3,517 flights scheduled to depart from the UK. "We are looking ahead to what we expect to be a strong summer for EasyJet," CEO Johan Lundgren said in a statement at the time.

An EasyJet spokesperson attributed the increase in cancelled flights to "higher than usual staff sickness levels" The carrier cancelled zero flights departing from the UK during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, said cancellations were all but guaranteed once passengers and crew members took off their masks.

A similar move by U.S. airlines "would backfire in many ways," Feigl-Ding says. He thinks more passengers would hesitate to fly if airlines ditch mask rules. "If there are no masks, that actually makes people more worried about taking the trip," he says.
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