Last week, US carrier Southwest Airlines announced that it would be ending face mask exemptions for anyone over two years of age – this includes those with medical conditions. With similar moves made by other airlines, the policy comes amid the growing number of cases in many parts of the United States.
Wear a mask or don’t fly
The face mask policy for Southwest Airlines just got a lot more simple: Wear a mask onboard the flight or don’t fly at all. Although the airline puts it a little more eloquently:
“If a customer is unable to wear a face-covering or mask for any reason, Southwest regrets that we will be unable to transport the individual…In those cases, we hope the customer will allow us to welcome them onboard in the future, if public health guidance, or other safety-related circumstances, regarding face coverings changes.” -Southwest Airlines via The Dallas Morning News
Other US carriers follow suit
Southwest Airlines isn’t alone on this policy change. American Airlines made the same move, removing ‘medical condition’ exemptions a few hours later.
“Customers and team members have been clear that they feel more safe when everyone is wearing a face covering,” American’s chief customer officer, Alison Taylor, told Boston.com.
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Airlines have been gradually increasing rules on face coverings. While at first they were lax and didn’t enforce the rules once customers were on board, they are now taking more extreme measures such as banning people from future flights.
While United Airlines hasn’t gone in the same exact direction, it has upped its mask-wearing policy to include the requirement to have a mask on at all times even while at the airport. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told NBC’s Today Show that his airline has had to suspend over 100 passengers from future travel for not wearing a mask.
Could it become law?
While airlines are working mask-wearing into their flight policies, one US Senator hopes to turn it into law, at least for the duration of this global health crisis.
By introducing the Maintaining Important Distance During Lengthy Epidemics (MIDDLE) Act of 2020, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley hopes to make face masks mandatory while also banning the sale of middle (and adjacent) seats while the coronavirus situation continues.
Merkley has taken it upon himself to ensure safe air travel for Americans – particularly after an experience on a packed American Airlines flight earlier this month:
.@AmericanAir: how many Americans will die bc you fill middle seats, w/ your customers shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour. This is incredibly irresponsible. People eat & drink on planes & must take off masks to do so. No way you aren’t facilitating spread of COVID infections. pic.twitter.com/PWG5macqgC
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) July 2, 2020
However, the journey for a bill to become law is fraught with many potential pitfalls and partisanship and will undoubtedly be challenged by other lawmakers. Therefore, despite the best intentions from Senator Merkley, we’re not likely to see the “MIDDLE Act of 2020” actually pass.
What do you think about the elimination of exemptions for wearing a mask onboard? Would it make you feel after? Let us know in the comments.