If you want to fly a domestic airline in the US right now, you most likely will be required to wear a mask or face covering.
This has been a controversial move as many Americans feel like it is too much of an infringement to require masks to be worn.
There is also a large segment of people who feel like the masks present health hazards to them. In addition some people have pre-existing health conditions which are reportedly worsened by wearing a face covering.
For example, I have heard that some people claim that breathing issues are made worse by wearing a mask or that conditions like anxiety could be amplified.
These people are not all full of BS as the CDC has even recognized needed face covering exemptions for “children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
Because of these reasons, some individuals are refusing to wear masks based on medical reasons.
Well, starting on Monday Delta will require these individuals to undergo a medical evaluation at the airport before boarding.
Delta is encouraging passengers who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons to reconsider traveling right now.
It looks like this medical evaluation may be a “virtual consultation” that will take place prior to departure at the airport.
According to USA Today, “The evaluation will be done in private with STAT-MD, Delta’s partner for in-flight emergency consultations, which is based at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.”
These evaluations could take up to one hour so Delta is encouraging passengers to arrive early at the airport if they will undergo a medical evaluation.
If it is determined that there has been a false claim of disability or health condition, for the purpose of getting exempted from the mask requirement, this could result in suspension of travel privileges.
But if you are denied an exemption from the mask policy, you will be issued a refund for your ticket.
Although the early data and opinions were conflicting regarding face coverings, over the past couple of months many studies and reports have shown that face coverings are crucial for slowing the spread of the virus.
Still, this policy will prove to be controversial I’m sure.
Health history and medical conditions are considered protected/privileged information and lots of people do not feel comfortable opening up about these things, especially in an airport “virtual consultation” session.
The fact that it could take up to an hour to get a consultation done prior to a flight could also prove to be a major issue.
Overall, I think this is a tough decision because it is important to enforce face coverings in order for them to be effective.
If you allow individuals to simply claim an exemption in good-faith, there will people who take advantage of that exemption over time. (Just like how we see with service animals.)
It would then likely only be a matter of time before someone hosting the virus claims a false exemption and spreads the virus.
It’s still possible for someone to be asymptomatic and be granted a face covering exemption so there could still be a risk. But at least fewer people will be without masks on the plane with the new rule.
The new rule may also give passengers more confidence as they will see fewer passengers without face coverings but I think it will also help the crew out a lot since they will not have to resolve as many conflicts from angry passengers regarding face coverings.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.