Southwest Extends Blocked Middle Seats and Eliminates Mask Exceptions

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Southwest Airlines has joined the growing list of US airlines cracking down on face masks. From next week, the airline says no mask, no fly. Southwest’s decision follows Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines all toughening their stance on passengers wearing masks.

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Southwest Airlines is toughening its stance on face masks. Photo: Southwest Airlines News Room

Southwest says effective Monday, July 27, all passengers must wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose. There will be one exception, children under the age of two. Arguably, Southwest Airlines is taking the mask policy further than its competitors. Many other airlines will make allowances for passengers medically unable to wear a mask. Southwest Airlines will not. The airline says it “regrets” it will not be able to fly them.

The airline says in a statement;

“Southwest Customers will be required to wear a face mask or covering over their mouth and nose while checking in, moving through an airport, boarding, inflight, deplaning, retrieving baggage, and any other time they may engage with a Southwest Employee or another Customer.”

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Source: Southwest Airlines

The major US airlines get tough on face masks

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen many airlines harden their stance on masks. While rules have been in place since May, enforcement was ad hoc. However, as COVID-19 continues its march across the United States, a more consistent and hardline position is beginning to come into effect.

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Around a month ago, United Airlines began to restrict travel for passengers who refused to wear a mask. The airline said it would place any passenger who refused to follow directions to wear a mask on their no-fly list.

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The only exemptions Southwest Airlines will allow is for children under two. Photo: Southwest Airlines News Room

Alaska Airlines is issuing yellow cards to passengers who repeatedly refuse to wear a mask. According to the airline, flight attendants will be able to issue a notice to non-compliant passengers. That could see those passengers added to Alaska’s no-fly list.

Earlier this week, Delta Air Lines rolled out a new mask policy. It’s not as hardline as its competitors. Delta says if there is a bona fide reason why you cannot wear a mask in flight or the terminal, you’ll need the tick of approval from one of Delta’s medical doctors. They’ve set up a “clearance to fly” process to facilitate this.

Yesterday, American Airlines rolled out a similar policy to Southwest Airlines, the only exemption being for children under two. The airline cites guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. It says flights are getting busier and planes are filling up, making compulsory masks a necessary evil.

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Unlike its competitors, Southwest Airlines will continue to block out the middle seat. Photo: Southwest Airlines

A consistent approach will be welcomed by most passengers

It’s a pretty consistent approach across all the major US carriers. While not everyone may agree with it, most will appreciate a uniform approach.

Southwest’s toughened approach is in line with public health guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control. The airline says while it’s okay to remove your mask to eat, drink, or take medicine, but it wants you to put your mask back on as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines is distinguishing itself from its competitors in one big way. It remains the only major US carrier to continue blocking out the middle seat. Southwest Airlines says it plans to keep doing so well into autumn.

That empty middle seat has proved a hit with passengers but is a revenue black hole for the airlines. But Southwest Airlines says it is putting passenger wellbeing over profits. It’s a marketing message that could pay off in the long run.

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