mask on plane rule
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File this one under “Let me get some popcorn…”

mask on plane rule

Airlines for America (A4A) Says: Major U.S. Airlines Announce Increased Enforcement of Face Coverings

Airlines for America is a trade organization that represents airlines.

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They put out a statement today, indicating that airlines have come together and plan to start actual compliance on mask wearing. (HT: Brian Summers)

If you are thinking “Didn’t I read about airlines requiring masks?” then you would be correct. But you may have missed my article: Airlines requiring masks… don’t require masks.

In an except from the Airlines for America’s press release today, they say:

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines will be implementing the following policy updates regarding face coverings:

  1. Preflight Communications: Each airline will clearly articulate its individual face covering policy in communications with customers, which may require passengers to acknowledge the specific rules during the check-in process.
  2. Onboard Announcements: Onboard the aircraft, crew members will announce specific details regarding the carrier’s face covering policy including the consequences passengers could face for violating the policy.
  3. Consequences for Noncompliance: Each carrier will determine the appropriate consequences for passengers who are found to be in noncompliance of the airline’s face covering policy up to and including suspension of flying privileges on that airline.

Numbers 1 and 2 are great and non-controversial.

Number 3, though, is where things will no doubt get interesting.


Why don’t airlines enforce compliance now?

Great question, since they tell you that you are required to wear a mask. The answers include:

  1. Masks are a huge political issue now (which they should not be as a virus doesn’t care what your political views are and ignoring a virus does not make it less virulent).
  2. There are ADA issues. Some customers (truly) cannot wear masks due to disabilities. The ADA doesn’t permit airlines (or any business) to ask about a disability. This also leads to people faking disabilities. I’ve long thought that their actually needs to be real regulation about this. People with real issues do need to be accommodated but it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t put passengers around them at risk and without it being something that anyone can say to flaut the rules. Other ADA accommodations don’t directly put others health at risk, so this is a completely new ballgame.  Remember that every day masks only work when everyone wears them as they prevent you from spreading the virus but they won’t protect you from someone next to you who has the virus and isn’t wearing a mask.
  3. Treating mask compliance like an FAA regulated issue (i.e. refusing to wear your seatbelt, sit during takeoff and landing, etc) would undoubtedly slow down departures ad customers refuse and need to be offloaded from the flight.
  4. Making flight attendants police mask wearers puts their safety at risk due to how charged this all is (see point #1). Some customers are taking a stand (I guess about their right to infect others) and this will make for altercations.


The problems with not enforcing a stated mask policy:

On the other side of the coin are the issues with NOT enforcing the mask rules.

  1. Customers are left to self-police which causes its own issues and can still lead to flight delays.
  2. Customers may feel comfortable flying again if everyone is wearing a mask but not want to fly once they realize it’s a suggestion and not a rule.
  3. If some passengers are fine wearing masks but see others without them and are on the fence about the utility of a mask, they may remove their own.
  4. COVID is on the rise in 22 states in the US, the country with more cases than any other country in the world. This is a safety issue for all passengers and airline crew.


Will this statement from Airlines for America mean anything?

Gary at VFTW points out that as of today, American’s own policy is still not to enforce. I expect may change soon, though.

United, just now, put out an enforcement memo that has be feeling pretty encouraged:

Hopefully more airlines are about to follow United’s lead. (Did I just say that?!)

I’m interested to see what happens in the coming weeks. With airlines still flying fewer planes that can be completely full, this absolutely has an impact on my own willingness to fly. I’ve seen too many people get sick and even die from COVID to think its not something to be blasé about.

It seems that when one hasn’t seen the same, they don’t believe the hype…


What are your thoughts?

Let me know here, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

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