Center for Advanced Transportation Mobility

Document Type


Publication Date



COVID-19, Aircraft cabin, Face mask, Mask-wearing intention, Mask policy, Theory of planned behavior, Mediating effect of attitude


The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the air transport industry, forcing airlines to take measures to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members. Among the many protective measures, a mask mandate onboard the airplane is an important one, but travelers’ maskwearing intentions during flight remain uninvestigated especially in the US where mask use is a topic of on-going debate. This study focused on the mask use of airline passengers when they fly during COVID-19, using the theory of planned behavior (TPB) model to examine the relationship between nine predicting factors and the mask-wearing intention in the aircraft cabin. A survey instrument was developed to collect data from 1,124 air travelers on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), and the data was statistically analyzed using structural equation modeling and logistic regression. Results showed that attitude, descriptive norms, risk avoidance, and information seeking significantly influenced the travelers’ intention to wear a mask during flight during COVID-19. Group analysis indicated that the four factors influenced mask-wearing intentions differently in young, middle-aged, and senior travelers. The results further show a significant impact of the three factors on mask-wearing intention and a strong mediating effect of attitude, indicating that attitude can be used to better understand the relationships between the factors. When five demographic characteristics – age, gender, education, income, and ethnicity were considered, all except gender could help to explain the group variations in factor impact and the mediating effect in mask-wearing intentions. It was also found that demographic and travel characteristics including age, education, income, and travel frequency can be used to predict if the airline passenger was willing to pay a large amount to switch to airlines that adopted different mask policies during COVID-19. The findings of this study fill the research gap of air travelers’ intentions to wear a mask when flying during a global pandemic and provide recommendations for mask wearing policies to help the air transport industry recover from COVID-19.