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US airlines are now beginning to require passengers to wear face masks and face coverings when flying. We recently saw JetBlue require passengers to wear such coverings and then today found out that Frontier Airlines and now Delta Airlines will be requiring passengers to wear masks starting next week.
The mask policy will also apply during other stages of travel like check-in, boarding and deplaning and in lounges.
Delta’s chief customer experience officer, Bill Lentsch, stated, “While we remain committed to our new standard of clean and to providing more space for our customers when they travel, we take seriously the CDC guidelines for adding this extra layer of protection. We believe this change will give customers and employees some additional comfort when traveling with us.”
United and American don’t currently require passengers to wear masks but they will be providing masks to some passengers and other materials like hand sanitizers. Southwest is also reportedly considering making the mask requirement mandatory.
Don’t be surprised if some of these airlines end up requiring masks for passengers very soon.
United Airlines just announced that it is going to require its flight attendants to wear masks or face coverings when on duty. This policy will apply to approximately 25,000 flight attendants and they will have to wear commercial facemasks or homemade masks.
United Airlines is the first major US carrier to require all flight attendants to wear a face covering or mask although other US airlines have put in similar policies. Previously, United Airlines had a policy to require masks but only on international flights that were heading to coronavirus hotspots.
The new policy comes as United Airlines has been working in coordination with the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).
United stated, “In coordination with the AFA—starting on April 24—we will require that all flight attendants wear a face covering or mask to help protect themselves and customers on board our aircraft.”
The AFA, who has been largely responsible for prior changes like the banning of knives in cabin, has been busy making other recommendations and suggestions to make the workplace less risky for flight attendants.
Most significantly, they believe that all passengers should be required to wear facemasks on flights. They also want to put an end to leisure air travel until the pandemic is brought under control.
I will not be surprised to see other airlines implement a similar policy of requiring flight attendants to wear facemasks or coverings during flights (the AFA represents 50,000 flight attendants across 20 airlines.)
Requiring masks for all passengers is a different story, however.
I don’t think anyone can doubt that having a plane full of passengers wearing masks will be safer for both other passengers and other flight attendants.
But there is still an appreciable level of resistance in this country when it comes to requiring people to wear masks.
Airline travel is already down so far right now, I can’t see airlines wanting to enforce another strict policy that might discourage travel on the airlines even more.
The ban on leisure travel is also another contentious issue. It is in line with the current recommendations from the government to avoid nonessential travel.
The tricky issue is going to be that we are just now starting to see some places open up and some of the less hit hotspots are going to be opening up soon.
So very soon you may have travel between too low risk areas and banning travel like that could become very problematic.
Again, the airlines are struggling so much that I’m not sure I could see them giving up the few routes that actually might be somewhat safe.
And then there is the question of how to enforce the ban against leisure travel?
It’s a whole different can of worms but it will be interesting to follow how other airlines are impacted by these changes.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.