Every leading U.S. airline will require passengers to wear facial coverings during flights. Airlines say they won't let customers without masks board a plane. (May 6) AP Domestic


Tony Scott boarded an American Airlines flight May 25 from Los Angeles to Dallas. It was a trip he felt he had to take despite concerns about the Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that only children younger than 2 should be exempt, and American's policy exempts "very young children or anyone with a condition that prevents them from wearing one." The flight attendant didn’t offer to move Scott to another seat.

Scott, a 53-year-old African American with asthma, was upset. He said he is in a high-risk category for COVID-19 and was shocked by the experience. “I’m very worried about getting coronavirus,” Scott told KHN. “I want to be safe, I don’t want to die, and I want the airline to stop putting people at risk.”

Josh Freed, an American Airlines spokesperson, reiterated the policies on the company’s website but declined discussing Scott’s situation.

Other flyers have echoed Scott’s experience on social media, telling tales of uneven, inconsistent or incorrect COVID-19 policy enforcement on various airlines' flights.

As consumers consider traveling again, they discover the public health guidelines in place for flying often are a messy patchwork of precautions that lack the teeth to protect passengers. And, so far, federal agencies have been loath to establish and enforce specific safety standards.

Only 'guidelines': FAA won't make wearing of face masks on airlines mandatory

The patchwork of rules

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announced that its members would be “vigorously enforcing” face-covering policies by communicating before the flight and making onboard announcements. The group said it would be up to each airline to determine the appropriate consequences for not wearing a face mask.

“All A4A (Airlines for America) carriers have implemented a face-covering requirement and have determined the appropriate consequences for passengers who are found to be in noncompliance,” said the group’s spokesperson, Katherine Estep.

United said Delta said a refusal to comply will “risk future flight privileges.” Southwest said it will deny boarding to any customer not wearing a mask.

The announcement comes after most major U.S. adjusting advance seat selection” and American said it may reassign seats or move people once on board and is capping occupancy on flights.

Southwest said they are blocking middle seats to ensure space between customers – a distance of about 2 feet. Delta is also blocking some window and aisle seats, and Delta, United, JetBlue and Frontier are boarding passengers from back to front so they don’t have to closely pass one another. Southwest is boarding 10 people at a time, from only one side of the boarding poles. Airlines have also Frontier has also been requiring passengers when they check in to verify that they have no COVID-19 symptoms, nor does anyone else in their household. United, Southwest and Allegiant are now asking passengers to fill out health questionnaires at check-in.

No other airlines are screening temperatures yet, though the Trump administration has reportedly been in talks with the Transportation Security Administration to test the idea at select airports as part of the security check process. But it’s unclear how exactly this would work. Would TSA follow a model similar to Frontier’s? Would airlines charge rebooking fees for passengers turned away?

“At this time, no decision has been made regarding health screening measures at airports,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers said in an email. And the agency isn’t eager for a public discussion. “It is premature to talk about any aspect or specifics of how this could even occur,” Dankers said.

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'The airlines can do whatever they want'

Since March, the airline industry has suffered significant losses, with travel down by almost 90% because of stay-at-真人百家家乐官网网站home orders and fears of the pandemic. But as businesses restart operations, it has sent clear signals about its hopes for how travel will proceed amid COVID-19 concerns: Airlines want the leeway to set and manage their own safety requirements while they regain their financial footing.

Besides announcing more vigorous face mask enforcement, Airlines for America also recently launched a public awareness campaign that “showcases the proactive measures U.S. airlines are implementing to enhance sanitation and disinfection procedures,” said Estep, in a statement. Some of the burden falls on customers, and Estep said the campaign would remind “the traveling public of steps they can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

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