Airlines for America has announced that its member carriers will be vigorously enforcing face covering policies. Amid a flurry of reports of US airline passengers flouting mask-wearing rules, the industry trade organization representing US airlines, has announced policies to ensure rules requiring passengers and customer-facing employees to wear facial coverings over their nose and mouth are followed.
Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines will be implementing the following policy updates regarding face coverings:
1. Preflight Communications: Each airline will clearly articulate its individual face covering policy in communications with customers, which may require passengers to acknowledge the specific rules during the check-in process.
2. Onboard Announcements: On board the aircraft, crew members will announce specific details regarding the carrier’s face covering policy including the consequences passengers could face for violating the policy.
3. Consequences for Noncompliance: Each carrier will determine the appropriate consequences for passengers who are found to be in noncompliance with the airline’s face covering policy up to and including suspension of flying privileges on that airline.
“US airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” said A4A president and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees.”
The measures are expected to remain in place throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis.
When airlines began flying again as cities in the US re-opened, internal airline memos from American, United and Delta were leaked that stated airline personnel should encourage flyers to wear masks but to deal with non-compliance gently and on an individual basis.
The new rules from A4A – of which all three airlines are members – do not allow non-compliance and can get passengers banned from flying at the least, for not wearing masks before and during flights.
The move comes as more and more flights are filling up and airlines face the possibility of opening up middle seats to stay economically viable. Airlines are also watching potential legislation in Washington that would absolve them from liability if passengers contract Covid-19 after flying.
The bottom line is that although airlines can become more rigorous in terms of enforcement, passengers should still assess their own risk factors and safety before flying for either essential or non-essential reasons, and use masks and other hygiene methods like handwashing (or goggles for extra safety) before getting back in the air.