US Airlines Set To Take A Tough Stand On Mask Wearing

Airlines for America, a trade association and lobbying group representing major North American airlines, wants to ban passengers who refuse to wear face-coverings inflight. The Washington-based organization has organized its ten member airlines into a coalition that will mandate and enforce stringent new face-covering policies

Airlines for America is rolling out uniform policies on inflight face-coverings. Photo: Chicago O’Hare Airport

Non-compliance will risk a travel ban

The association says passengers who do not wear face coverings could have flying privileges revoked.

“U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio in a statement provided to Simple Flying.

The new policy brings a degree of uniformity and self-regulation across member airlines. These include some of North America’s most significant carriers, such as Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.

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Three components to the new policy

There are three components to the new policy. They include preflight communications, onboard announcements, and clear consequences for noncompliance.

Before boarding, airlines will clearly communicate their face-covering policies. These rules will be crystal clear and explained while checking in and later at the gate.

“Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees,” said Mr Calio.

The new policy is designed to bring consistency to the face-covering rules. Photo: Chicago O’Hare Airport

Once onboard, policies regarding face covering will again be explained. Non-compliance will see consequences. What these consequences will be is up to individual airlines, but they could include a travel ban on that particular airline.

Policies regarding face-covering on US airlines have been a bit hit and miss. For example, American Airlines had previously announced that it would require all passengers to wear face coverings by mid-May.

“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, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at the time.

Attempt to rectify ad-hoc application of rules

But almost immediately, American Airlines (and other big carriers) told employees not to enforce the issue while inflight.

“Once onboard and off the gate, the face-covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face-covering policy,” said American Airlines.

American Airlines has had a haphazzard approach to enforcing face-covering rules. Photo: American Airlines

Employees could deny boarding rights at the gate, but once onboard, their hands became tied. The inconsistency confused and angered some passengers who took the health risks more seriously than others.

Other airlines, like Frontier (who is not an Airlines for America member), have taken a stricter stance. Frontier has made the wearing of face coverings inflight a condition of carriage.

Now America’s biggest airlines are catching up. Whether you agree with face coverings or not, consistency is a good thing. Whether you fly United or Delta or Southwest, consistent application of the rules reduces confusion and the health risks of traveling.