As of Sept. 1, the Canadian airline WestJet Group (including WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop) has initiated a zero-tolerance policy for face masks.

Airlines have recently toughened up mask policies as the industry scrambles to attract travelers who say they are ready to fly again, provided the right safety measures are in place.

The WestJet policy states that guests over the age of two must wear masks and face coverings. “Non-compliant guests will face penalties including denied boarding, return of the aircraft to the gate to offload the passenger and the suspension of travel on any WestJet Group aircraft for up to one year,” the airline said in a statement.

“Canadian travelers and all of our WestJet Group employees are counting on us to keep them safe and it is our utmost priority to do so,” said Ed Sims, WestJet Group president and CEO. “Masks are mandated by our regulator and the vast majority of our guests are happy to keep themselves and each other safe by complying. This enhanced policy provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don’t. Travelers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”

Non-compliance on board the aircraft will be managed through a three-step process:
1. Passengers will first be asked to put the mask on in a discussion with cabin crew.
2. Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required, and compliance is necessary.
3. Passengers will receive notice that non-compliance will result in follow up notification that they will be placed on a no-fly list for 12-months.

Although the policy may seem straightforward, compliance is not always so simple.

On a Sept. 8 flight from Calgary to Toronto, a family was removed from the aircraft by police and the flight was turned back due to a child not wearing a mask.

WestJet passenger Safwan Choudhry told the BBC that attendants insisted his 19-month old child wear a mask and that that was the cause of the dispute. WestJet officials say that Choudrhy’s 3-year-old was not wearing a mask and that was the reason for the turnaround and ejection.

The passenger and his family were not charged although they were removed from the aircraft by police. “It’s unlike anything I have ever witnessed, let alone experienced,” Choudhry told the BBC.

westjet.com