Air travelers who refuse to wear face masks on planes to protect passengers and crews from COVID-19 are not only being stopped from flying now, but may also be banned from flying commercially in the future, U.S. airlines are warning.
“We take the requirement to wear a mask very seriously,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a staff note Thursday, reports CNBC. “Customers who choose not to comply with this or any other safety requirement risk losing their future flight privileges with Delta. So far, there have thankfully only been a handful of cases, but we have already banned some passengers from future travel on Delta for refusing to wear masks on board.”
Last week, American Airlines blocked a traveler from flying in New York after he refused to wear a mask, and Southwest Airlines says it won't let travelers board planes if they're not wearing a face mask to "ensure anyone uncomfortable with wearing a face covering or mask does not board a Southwest aircraft."
The airlines also are taking other measures, including informing travelers when flights are getting full so they can make other plans, and leaving some seats open on planes to help create more distancing.
The Allied Pilots Association, representing pilots at American Airlines, proposed Wednesday that the government buy seats on flights so that passengers don't have to sit next to strangers.
The Department of Transportation, citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests but doesn't mandate that air travelers wear masks, and industry members want a federal rule.
“The federal government is not backing us up and that’s really what we need here,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “It is very important to send a clear message to the traveling public that this is the expectation and there will be consequences if people don’t follow these instructions.”
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