Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian revealed on Monday that the Atlanta-based airline has now banned as many as 950 passengers for refusing to wear a face mask on its planes. The news came two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially published a federal order that mandates the wearing of face masks on both domestic and international flights, as well as other forms of public transportation.
Bastian, however, is already looking towards the future and urged staffers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon they are offered the jab. “Vaccines are essential to Delta’s recovery, as well as the recovery of our nation and the world,” Bastian wrote in an internal memo.
So far, just 690 employees at the airline have reported receiving the first dose of a vaccine but that number may quickly increase as the mass vaccination campaign continues to ramp up. Some State’s are also prioritising aviation workers such as pilots and flight attendants.
Bastian said the airline was working with state and federal authorities in an effort to get airline workers bumped up the priority list even further. Nonetheless, vaccination will remain optional for Delta staffers.
“I strongly encourage each of you to get vaccinated when your time comes,” Bastian wrote. “This is one of the most important things we can do to help save lives, end this pandemic and help Delta get back to connecting the world better than anyone.”
Despite the CDC now issuing a federal face mask mandate, there are fears the order could actually reduce compliance settings in certain settings. For the first time, people with an exemption are officially recognised and should be allowed to fly on a plane if they can prove they have a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
Both American Airlines and United Airlines had previously banned passengers if they couldn’t or wouldn’t wear a face mask for any reason including legitimate disabilities. Delta offers a pre-flight approval service which has given exempt passengers access to flights if they are first seen by a physician.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.