With all US airlines now recommending the wearing of masks, some have done a better job than others of enforcing this new rule. JetBlue’s CEO, Robin Hayes, has explained today how his crew members encourage mask-wearing at all times, and how persuasion can often be as easy as A, B, C.
Not all US airlines are enforcing the wearing of masks
Of all the US airlines that are now mandating masks on flights, JetBlue was the first to take this bold step. But asking passengers to wear masks and making them comply with this request are two very different things.
Some airlines have come under fire for not insisting on mask-wearing. A Reuters report suggested that, while boarding can be denied to non-mask wearers at the gate, once onboard, it is something of a free-for-all.
Citing an American Airlines policy, Reuters said that, once on board, flight attendants were advised that their roles are, “informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy.”
For Southwest Airlines, the policy is even more lenient, with CNN reporting flight crews are told not to deny boarding if someone is not wearing a face covering.
Over at JetBlue, however, the airline is taking a much more proactive approach. In an interview with Washington Post this afternoon, JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes explained how convincing passengers to wear a mask was as easy as A, B, C.
Hayes, who has recently taken a 50% pay cut, noted JetBlue’s commitment to ensuring the safety of both passengers and crew on flights. Alongside guaranteed social distancing until July, he explained how his airline gets more people wearing masks in flight. He said,
“We know that face masks aren’t great to wear. We do know it’s a significant mitigant, so we are asking all our customers to wear face masks. Our in-flight crew members are amazing at persuading people sometimes to do things they don’t want to do, so we trained them in how to manage conflict.
“We call it the ABC’s: Ask, Bargain and Convince. When we go through that, most customers do wear the mask.”
Some questions have, of course, been raised over the practicalities of wearing a mask. What about, for instance, when you want to take a drink or have a bite to eat? Some people may have a medical condition that makes wearing a mask for a prolonged period more difficult. Hayes explained how his crew members take a pragmatic approach to these situations.
“If someone refuses to put a mask on before they board the airplane, we won’t let them board. If they’re in the air and they take their mask off, if maybe they have a medical issue or if they want to have something to eat or drink… let’s use some common sense! There are times you could need to drop your mask to do something.”
A social obligation
Altogether, it sounds like JetBlue has got a handle of the mask-wearing issue, and as yet, there have been no incidents on board. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t prepared to take a hard line if passengers are wantonly non-compliant. Hayes explained,
“If you want to sit there and just not wear it, then, unfortunately, we’re going to have to review whether we want that person to fly JetBlue again.
“Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet. But the safety of our customers and our crew members is paramount. This is the new flying etiquette and, at least until there’s a different solution to this, we’re going to have to accept that wearing a mask is less about protecting ourselves but more one of our social obligations to protect each other.”
For JetBlue, the situation has hit home in a very personal way. The airline has lost six crew members to COVID-19, something that CEO Robin Hayes took time out of his earnings results call to remember. He closed the interview by saying that, once the coronavirus crisis has abated, JetBlue will be thinking up a more permanent (and no doubt inspirational) way to pay tribute to its six employees.