Anti-Masking Gets Expensive in Peru

My Peruvian father-in-law recently visited us in the States. On one of his last days, we saw a news report on the spike of unruly passengers on flights in the United States.

The notorious incident

In light of that, Suegro told me a story from his flight out of Lima, which I’m delighted to share for your edification.

Peru’s airspace regulations currently require passengers on commercial flights to wear both a mask and a face shield. An American seated in the row in front of Suegro was wearing only a mask. According to Suegro, he refused to wear a face shield.

The flight attendant asked the American in English twice to put on a face shield. Disobedient refused even after she threatened to inform the captain that he would not comply. The captain called security and Disobedient was removed from the plane. Suegro describes a pitiful walk of shame as Disobedient begged for a third chance to don the face shield.

This flight was operated by Spirit Airlines, the lowest-cost carrier from Lima to the States, for which this specific route always sells out. During the pandemic, Spirit reduced frequency to just twice a week, so there probably wasn’t an available seat for a week if not longer, if they’d even have him. Disobedient probably had to book a flight with a premium airline like Latam, American or Delta. Maybe a night or two in a Lima hotel.

Given Spirit probably won’t issue a refund under its terms, I don’t see the total cost of this act of civil disobedience coming in at less than $500 … if Disobedient gets lucky. Probably $1,000, possibly more. And he would have been wearing the face shield on the flight out.

I can see how Disobedient may have thought he was out of the woods once he got his passport stamped and boarded a plane with an American airline. But remember, you are still governed by Peruvian law while on the ground, and Peruvian law requires a mask and face shield.

While the United States is opening back up as over 40% of the population is fully vaccinated, Peru and other developing countries were not first in line to receive vaccines. Peru’s public health situation remains at risk and they aren’t fully opening up yet. So while I’m the last guy to be preaching about leaving your American-ness at home and adopt the local culture, in this case it will be expensive.

I explained to both Suegro and Suegra on their respective visits that America is in the midst of a tense political environment, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Embedded in that is that one side doesn’t believe the pandemic is real. They think it’s a hoax. They refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated.

That dynamic was difficult for the suegros to comprehend. But I imagine the Peruvian flight staff knew exactly what I was trying to explain, and I doubt the pilot deliberated for long on how to deal with Disobedient. Boot him now, because it won’t get any better once up in the air.


    1. Oh and there are many anti-maskers in Cusco, “mostly” of foreign citizenship or birth, attempting to evangelise the locals against mask-wearing. Personally, I find such activities (whatever the value of “the science”) horrendously disrespectful and uncaring.. for many reasons (er, let’s go back to C Colón for a start).

      I’d love to get out to my wonderful Sierra but, you know, my longer-term compatriots deserve some respect and I pay that by keeping off the road and stuck at home.

      Hope you guys are OK.


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