Major airlines will require passengers to wear face coverings

Delta airplane. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Andrei Dimofte

May 1, 2020 (UPI) — Three major U.S. airlines on Thursday announced they will require passengers to wear face coverings on planes as unions and politicians pressure the Trump administration to mandate the practice nationwide to prevent the spread of the deadly and infectious coronavirus.

Delta on Thursday said customers will be required to wear a face mask or an appropriate face covering from Monday in the check-in lobby, Delta Sky Clubs, boarding gate areas, jet bridges and on the aircraft for the duration of the flight. The use of face coverings is also being encouraged in high-traffic areas, such as security lines and restrooms, it said in a statement.

American Airlines said the requirement will be in effect from May 11, explaining a cloth face covering made from household items or common materials can be used. Travelers will be required to wear masks when on board an American flight with exceptions in place for “very young passengers” and those with conditions that prevent them from wearing one, it said in a statement.

United Airlines also said its measure will be in place from Monday.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our people and our customers,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer. “While we remain committed to our new standard of clean and to providing more space for our customers when they travel, we take seriously the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for adding this extra layer of protection.”

All three companies said the move follows them requiring flight attendants and some employees to wear face masks and adheres to the CDC guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 1 million people in the United States resulting in more than 63,000 deaths, according to health data presented by Johns Hopkins University.

JetBlue Airways on Tuesday became the first major U.S. airliner to require passengers to wear face masks.

Budget airline Frontier also announced in a statement Thursday that staring May 8 customers will be required to wear face coverings “throughout their journey.”

The move by the airlines follows mounting pressure from flight attendants and Democrats calling on the Trump administration to implement the rule.

On Wednesday, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio of Oregon urged the Federal Aviation Authority to require masks for all crew and passengers after the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA sent Department of Health and Humans Services Secretary Alex Azar and Elaine Chao, the Transportation chief, a similar letter on April 23.

In its letter, the union said at least 250 of its 50,000 members at 20 carriers have so far tested positive for the virus, and some have died.

Requiring masks, it said, will minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to passengers and airline workers.

“The scars run deep,” it said in the letter. “Recent media reports document the guilt felt by those who question if we are helping to spread the virus, feelings of fear and grief as coworkers die and wonder about when this will all be over.”

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