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American Airlines and Southwest CEOs Question Mask Use On Planes

"I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment," says Southwest CEO Gary Kelly.

The heads of two of the country's biggest airlines are now questioning whether masks are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 on planes.

At a Wednesday Senate hearing on the support that the government provided to airlines during the pandemic, American Airlines ( (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report) CEO Doug Parker and Southwest ( (LUV) - Get Southwest Airlines Co. Report) CEO Gary Kelley responded to a question posed by the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Roger Wicker by saying that masks do .

"I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment," Kelly said, as first reported by CNN. "It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting."

Parked said that he concurs and added that planes are "the safest place you can be" due to all cabin air passing through high-grade HEPA air filters and frequently being exchanged when people leave the plane.

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"It's true of all of our aircraft, they all have the same HEPA filters and air flow," Parker, who last week announced that he would be retiring from the role in 2022, said. Kelly also plans to retire in the near future.

On the same day as Parker made the statement, American Airlines issued a statement distancing itself from the comment and saying that the CEO was concurring about the air quality instead of the need for masks.

Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson said at the hearing that the quality of air filters can differ from plane to plane, particularly for older aircraft, and reiterated the need for masks.

As travel rebounds in the aftermath of the pandemic, some airlines are able to bounce back while others are struggling. American Airlines stock is up 9.25% to $16.52 year-over-year while Southwest stock is down 12.19% to $39.55.