Wear a mask or you can’t fly

Travelers in protective masks walk through Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia, USA, on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | fake pictures

U.S. airlines are cracking down on travelers who refuse to wear face masks on board, a requirement that aims to protect Covid-19 passengers and crews.

The federal government recommends, but does not compel, to cover their faces as masks for air travelers and for other situations where physical distance is difficult. So, last month, U.S. carriers began requiring passengers to use them on board, with a few exceptions, such as medical problems or whether travelers eat or drink.

“We take the requirement to wear a mask very seriously,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a staff note Thursday. “Customers who choose not to comply with this or any other safety requirement are at risk of losing their future flight privileges with Delta. Until now, fortunately, there have only been a handful of cases, but we have already banned some passengers from traveling in Delta. in the future for refusing to wear masks on board. “

Last week, American Airlines said it prohibits a traveler from flying on the Fort Worth-based airline after he refused to wear a mask on board and was asked to leave a flight in New York. The ban will be in effect as long as Americans require masks on board, he said.

For its part, Southwest Airlines said it will not allow travelers to enter if they do not wear a face mask.

“Our policy of denying boarding before travel is designed to ensure that anyone who is uncomfortable wearing a mask or face covering does not board a plane from the Southwest,” he said. The Dallas-based airline said it sends notifications to travelers reminding them of this policy before their trip and has also posted signs at airports to that effect.

Airlines are dealing with a record drop in travel demand and are trying to ensure that it is safe to fly during the pandemic. In addition to requiring masks, they are taking other measures, such as leaving some seats on board open and informing travelers when the flight begins to fill up.

Delta’s Bastian told employees that while demand has increased in recent months, “We expect our overall demand this summer to be only 25 percent of last summer’s revenue, and we are likely to remain at least two years away.” of a return to normality. “

Airlines are eager to increase flights, particularly to higher-fare flights abroad, which have mostly been cut due to the pandemic. Delta, for example, is slated to resume service to China on Thursday. Political tensions and concerns about the spread of the virus have complicated the resumption of service abroad.

The Department of Transportation has not ordered masks on board, but says travelers should wear them on board flights, citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Of course, across the transportation system each mode is different,” DOT said in a statement. “But when it comes to air travel, DOT and [Federal Aviation Administration] expect the traveling public to follow the instructions and policies of the airline’s crew, which are in place for the protection of passengers and the health of air crews, and to take very seriously the precautions recommended by the CDC and the Organization of International Civil Aviation “.

But some members of the industry want a federal requirement.

“The federal government does not support us and that is really what we need here,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents cabin crews at United, Spirit and more than a dozen other airlines. “It is very important to send a clear message to the traveling public that this is the expectation and that there will be consequences if people do not follow these instructions.”