Dallas-based American Airlines is updating its existing mask requirements to align with a White House executive order. Beginning Tuesday, February 2, the United States Government will mandate that masks are worn while passing through airports and traveling on domestic flights.
“This federal mandate will provide additional support to our crew members who are working diligently to enforce our policy and further reinforce the safety of air travel during COVID-19,” said American Airlines’ Chief Operating Officer, David Seymour, on Monday.
President Biden signed an executive order on January 21 mandating face masks while traveling on certain domestic public transport throughout the United States. The order covers commercial airlines and airports.
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Executive order turns airline face mask policy into federal law
American Airlines began requiring its passengers to wear face masks in May. That was similar to a decision taken by most United States-based airlines. But the policy was developed and enforced at the airline level rather than at the government level.
“The American Airlines team continues to prioritize the safety of our customers and team members, and requiring a face covering is one more way we can protect those on our aircraft,” said Kurt Stache, American’s Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, at the time.
Since then, reports have occasionally emerged of passengers refusing to comply with individual airline mask policies. American Airlines doesn’t disclose how many passengers have been put on its no-fly list for refusing to wear a face mask or not wearing one correctly. But competitor Delta Air Lines has nearly 1,000 people on its list. Likewise, United Airlines has over 600 people on its no-fly list.
But equally, there have been reports of heavy-handed behavior by airline staff. Last week, there was an incident in Salt Lake City where a family group of 20 was removed from an American Airlines flight after an employee spied one of the group incorrectly wearing a face mask. American Airlines later told Simple Flying it was an issue of non-compliance with its policy.
President’s executive order welcomed by the airline industry
President Biden’s executive order will impose uniformity and clarity across the airline industry regarding face masks. It is a move welcomes by airline industry group, Airlines for America.
“We appreciate the Biden Administration’s decision to implement a federal face-covering mandate for all domestic modes of public transportation, including airports and commercial aircraft,” said CEO Nicholas Calio.
“We recognize that face coverings are a critical measure in our multi-layered approach to protecting the traveling public. This is why US airlines have been vigorously enforcing face-covering requirements since April 2020.
“We welcome the federal mandate as an additional layer of support, which will strengthen our flight crews’ ability to enforce face-covering requirements for the duration of the pandemic.”
Business as usual at American Airlines
Meanwhile, it is business as usual at American Airlines when it comes to face masks. The executive order simply turns a standard industry wide norm into federal law.
“We ask customers to bring their own masks or face coverings they’re comfortable with when they travel. American is working to procure face masks and hand sanitizer as a supplement,” says American’s David Seymour.
Government agencies, including the Center for Diseases Control, are reserving the right to impose criminal penalties for breaches of the executive order. That’s a significant upgrade from the worst that could previously happen – seeing yourself placed on an individual airline’s no-fly list. However, experts suggest criminal penalties will be rare, with civil penalties the preferred option.
What do you think? Are you a supporter of the executive order regarding mandatory face masks on United States airlines and in airports? Post a comment and let us know.