Many US airlines now require masks for passengers and staff, but some have indicated they won’t enforce the rule leaving me to ask, what’s the point?
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Almost All US Carriers Require Passengers, Staff to Wear Masks
The following US carriers require everyone on the plane to use a mask of some sort to cover their faces while on the aircraft:
- American Airlines
- Delta Air lines
- United Airlines
- Jet Blue
- Spirit Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
The lone holdout at this point is Allegiant who has decided not to force passengers to wear them inflight, though they encourage it.
Some airlines provide masks for those who have not brought their own. While it’s probably occurred (feel free to share in the comments if you have found a report of this) I have yet to see an account of a passenger denied boarding due to lack of PPE.
Jet Blue has been steadfast, passengers out of compliance will be denied boarding.
For Some Flights, Masks Seem Impractical
I wore a mask when I flew from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Toyo, Japan in mid-March for what was about a seven-hour flight. ANA passed them out, it was a daytime flight and some but not all passengers had masks on. For the United flights home, I did not wear the mask nor was I asked to do so – it wasn’t common practice in the US at that point in time.
However, when contemplating our potential trip to Hong Kong in August, my wife raised the point that we would have to wear our masks for the 16-hour 20-minute flight from Dallas. During the flight (we’ve taken it many times) there are two meal services and a snack independent of other drink services. In addition, we usually sleep at least eight hours at which point the mask could slide off (my eye mask often does.)
What does a flight crew do if a mask slides off while a guest is sleeping? Is it okay to take your mask off for meal times? It has to be, but doesn’t that negate the point? On a short hop for an hour or two, masks are completely practical, but for long-haul flights, how do passengers who earnestly want to wear them manage to keep them on even while sleeping?
Southwest Has Told Employees Not to Enforce
Southwest Airlines has been clear with its employees, do not deny boarding for those who decline wearing a mask. American Airlines and United have been less clear allowing staff to restrict boarding but not unilaterally denying passengers boarding.
“Separate memos obtained by CNN that American Airlines (flight attendants show that customers may be denied boarding for not wearing a mask. But once on the plane, “the face covering policy will become more lenient” and “the flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement,” the pilot memo reads.”) sent to its pilots and
United hints that those who have a medical condition that doesn’t allow them to wear a mask may be reseated if they decline to wear inflight. Will that lead to similar doctor notes like emotional support animal exceptions?
Whether you find yourself among the 47% of Americans that believe the worst of the virus is behind us, or the 52% that believe the worst is still ahead, these policies without enforcement don’t make sense. If the airlines want to mandate masks, that’s their choice. If passengers don’t want to wear them, they can fly with other carriers or not at all. Making a policy that is instantly negated by a memo to not enforce it is utterly useless. Pick a side, Allegiant and Jet Blue have.
What do you think? Should US carriers employ a policy of mask-wearing if they refuse to enforce it? Should there be different rules for long-haul routes where wearing a mask is impractical?