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Delta Becomes First U.S. Airline to Require Customers Who Claim a Medical Exemption for Not a Wearing Face Mask to Get Pre-Clearance

Delta Becomes First U.S. Airline to Require Customers Who Claim a Medical Exemption for Not a Wearing Face Mask to Get Pre-Clearance

Delta Air Lines has become the first major U.S. carrier to require passengers who claim a medical exemption for not wearing a face mask on one of its planes to first obtain clearance from a physician. Despite mandatory face mask rules, passengers have been able to claim a medical reason for not wearing one without providing any proof.

“Customers with health conditions or disabilities that explicitly prevent the wearing of a face covering or mask are strongly encouraged to reconsider travel or should be prepared to complete a ‘Clearance-to-Fly’ process prior to departure at the airport,” an updated FAQ’s section on Delta’s website informs passengers.

The process for passengers who need pre-clearance, Delta warns, could take up to an hour and will involve a virtual consultation with a healthcare professional.

The Atlanta-based airline does not provide a list of possible exemptions, suggesting passengers will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Details will be passed to gate staff and flight attendants to ensure they know which passengers won’t be wearing a mask.

The new rules won’t take effect until Monday, July 20th and the service will be available 24 hours a day.

“Medical research tells us that wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate,” a spokesperson for the airline explained.

“That’s why Delta remains committed to requiring customers and employees to wear a mask or face covering as a consistent layer of protection across all Delta touchpoints. We encourage customers who are prevented from wearing a mask due to a health condition to reconsider travel.”

“If they decide to travel, they will be welcome to fly upon completing a virtual consultation prior to departure at the airport to ensure everyone’s safety, because nothing is more important.”

Several weeks ago, Delta joined other U.S. including American and United in threatening to ban passengers who simply refuse to wear a face mask. Flight attendants don’t have the power to enforce face mask rules if someone doesn’t wear a mask onboard a flight but they file a report after the flight and passengers face being added to a ‘no fly’ list.

Several international airlines, including Dutch flag-carrier KLM, have required passengers who have a medical reason for not wearing a face covering to seek pre-clearance since mandatory face mask policies were introduced.

Federal authorities have declined to mandate the wearing of face masks onboard flights despite calls from lawmakers and flight attendant leaders.

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