The new U.S. federal mandate on masks allows for a limited number of exemptions, including for passengers with disabilities. American Airlines now says it is adjusting its mask policy and will allow passengers claiming a disability to travel without a mask if a pair of pre-flight conditions are met.
American Airlines Adds Mask Exemption For Disabled Passengers
Beginning today, American Airlines will “ask” passengers with disabilities which prevent them from wearing a mask to notify AA’s Special Assistance team at least 72 hours prior to their flight to “request” an exemption. The team is reachable through AA’s main telephone number (+1 800.433.7300) then asking to be transferred.
Documentation will be required including a note from a licensed health care provider as well as a negative COVID-19 test (no more than 72 hours old) or proof of recovery from COVID-19.
No further airport checks at the airport will be conducted. Previously, passengers two years old or over who could not wear a mask were not permitted to fly.
Ironic: American Airlines Opposes Domestic Pre-Flight COVID Testing
The news is a bit ironic in that American Airlines has strongly opposed proposals for domestic pre-flight testing mandate, noting that such a requirement would be too burdensome to justify.
But in accordance with the new mandate, American Airlines sees testing as a viable alternative to masks in order to keep other passengers safe onboard…or at least comply with the new federal mandate.
David Seymour, AA’s Chief Operating Officer, noted that masks will continue to be critical:
“Our mask requirement has been and will continue to be a critical component of our comprehensive effort to protect the health and well-being of our customers and team members during the pandemic. This federal mandate will provide additional support to our crew members who are working diligently to enforce our policy and further reinforce the safety of air travel during COVID-19.”
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will enforce the new federal mandate.
Live and Let’s Fly noted that the new federal mask mandate had the potential to undermine mask compliance onboard by creating a broad new loophole for disabilities, which unscrupulous passengers could exploit to avoid wearing masks.
While providing exemptions to those who truly cannot wear a mask is a laudable policy goal, that number should be very few. Time will now tell if the new exception will embolden a new wave of politically-driven defiance, now protected by a broad disability exception.
image: American Airlines