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Major U.S. Airlines Will Ban Passengers Who Refuse to Wear a Face Mask According to New Guidelines

Major U.S. Airlines Will Ban Passengers Who Refuse to Wear a Face Mask According to New Guidelines

A group of major U.S. airlines, including the likes of American, Delta and United Airlines will do more to enforce mandatory face mask rules as they attempt to counter an uptick in the number of passengers who simply refuse to abide by the rules. The airline trade body, Airlines for America said sanctions for non-compliance would be decided by individual airlines but could include temporary travel bans.

“U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights,” explained A4A chief executive Nicholas E. Calio. “Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” he continued.

Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines

Although many airlines introduced mandatory face mask rules in early May, it soon emerged that they had little power to enforce those policies. Flight attendants at American, Delta and United were all told they didn’t have the power to force passengers to wear face masks and anyone who refused to comply with the rules wouldn’t be offloaded.

Since then, airlines have seen a significant rise in the number of passengers who refuse to wear a face mask or simply remove their mask as soon as they make it on the aircraft.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of face masks or material face coverings in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is difficult since April. Although the evidence remains patchy, there is growing scientific belief that face coverings can help prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

But despite airlines making face masks freely available at the gate and the Department of Transportation even acquiring 100 million masks to be distributed to passengers at the nation’s airports, a growing number of travellers are simply refusing to wear the masks. Industry experts believe mask-wearing could be key to improving confidence in the safety of air travel in a post-COVID era.

Flight attendants and pilot leaders have called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue legally enforceable rules on mask wearing but the agency has so far shied away from getting involved.

Describing mask wearing as “one critical element” in a multi-layered safety programme, A4A said on Tuesday that its member airlines would introduce a three-step policy to encourage more passengers to wear a face mask:

  1. Pre-flight communications
  2. Onboard announcements
  3. Enforcement for non-compliance.

Alongside email reminders and notices in the airport, some airlines may also require passengers to acknowledge and agree at check-in to wearing a face mask or other suitable face covering. Flight attendants will then remind passengers of their face mask policy as well as the consequences of non-compliance.

Ultimately, each airline’s policy on non-compliance will differ but could result in the “suspension of flying privileges on that airline.”

As well as American, Delta and United, other airlines to have signed up to the three step policy include Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Southwest Airlines.