Saturday, December 05, 2020
The face mask enforcement policy of U.S. airlines is getting stricter with each passing day even as COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating as of now. The huge increase in air travel demand during the upcoming holiday season has made the airlines jittery and quite worrisome for the safeguard and healthy well-being of the passengers. Some airlines have already started banning the passengers and adding them to the no-fly list for refusing to follow COVID-19 protocols on board the aircrafts. The wearing of face mask in airlines has now become mandatory for all passengers as per the latest guidelines.
Even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against travelling in 2020, the air travellers are in no mood to heed to this advice. The TSA has reported a sharp increase in air travel for Thanksgiving week as compared to any other time during the pandemic. About 5% to 7% increase to current travel numbers is expected at Portland International Airport (PDX) as Thanksgiving approaches.
Portland airport officials in a statement said, “A slight uptick in holiday travel is expected from the Friday before Thanksgiving to the Monday following the holiday. As such, during this time PDX expects to welcome just over 200,000 travellers. The peak day, however, seems to be Sunday, November 29, when 25,250 travellers are expected to travel on that single day.”
The PDX authorities while comparing the same 10-day November holiday period in 2019 said that the airport handled more than 500,000 travellers, with the busiest day seeing 56,000 travellers. Though PDX will see fewer passenger numbers when compared to the same period last year, but even the current forecasted passengers this year will still be significant.
Some U.S. states, including Oregon, are seeing continued increase in COVID-19 cases. The risks for spread of infection due to flight-based travel have increased. U.S. airlines are battling the pandemic even more vigorously than before and trying to lessen the risks by taking stringent measures such as mask mandates for safeguarding passengers when travelling.
Let’s take a look at the steps being implemented by major U.S. airlines to ensure how passengers are wearing masks and following COVID-19 safety protocol.
United Airlines had earlier this year released a statement saying that from June 18 onwards the passengers who don’t wear face masks or refuse to wear it on United flights would be penalized by being placed on an internal travel restriction list. A statement issued by United media relations department warned the passengers and said that if they refuse to follow United Airlines’ face covering policy while in the airport or onboard a United flight may be refused transport and could also lose their travel privileges on United for a certain period of time that will be determined after reviewing the incident. The mask non-compliance is being strictly implemented and so far 370 passengers have been placed on the travel restriction list.
The mask mandated by Delta Airlines has become stricter. The airline has made it clear that Delta passengers not complying with Delta COVID-19 protocol will be placed on a no-fly list. Recent media reports providing updates about Delta said that the airline has so far placed nearly 550 passengers on its travel restriction list, and the number is likely to increase further if passengers refuse to wear face masks at the airport or onboard the Delta flights. According to the airline “a tiny fraction” of travellers are still refusing to wear a face mask. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said, “We’ve now added a total of nearly 550 people to our no-fly list for refusing to comply with Delta's mask requirement on board. Fortunately, that number represents a tiny fraction of our overall customers, the vast majority of whom follow our guidelines and appreciate the steps we are taking to keep them safe and healthy."
It may be noted that all passengers travelling with Delta since May are required to wear masks on its flights. Some passengers were even removed from its planes by the airline in the following months for failing to comply with the airline’s mask policy. The Delta Airlines Mask Policy states: “Delta customers and employees are required to wear a face mask, or appropriate cloth face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their travel, aligning with best practice guidelines from the CDC. Plastic face shields may be used in addition to a mask but are not approved mask replacements. Any mask with an exhaust valve is not approved as an acceptable face mask for customers travelling on any Delta operated flight. Customers are required to wear face masks across all touchpoints, including lobby check-in; Delta Sky Clubs; gate areas; jet bridges and onboard the aircraft for the duration of the flight except when eating or drinking." Moreover, the mask usage is strongly encouraged by Delta Airlines in high-traffic areas such as restrooms and security lines as well.
Spirit Airlines is stressing on a stricter mask mandate as per its COVID-19 safety protocols. Spirit Airlines media relations department issued a statement, which stated: “Spirit requires appropriate face coverings during your entire journey with us. Face coverings must be worn (correctly) while at the airport, on the jet bridge, and onboard the aircraft. If passengers do not comply with these guidelines they will be put on a travel restriction list for future travel through Spirit Airlines.”
American Airlines had earlier this year strictly warned that it would ban customers from travelling with the airline in the future if they don’t follow COVID-19 safety protocols. American Airlines mask policy stated: “A face covering is required while flying on American, except for children under 2 years old. If you decline to wear one, you may be denied boarding and future travel on American.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its latest guidelines has emphasized on the effectiveness of the face masks in protecting the wearer as well as those around them. The CDC guidelines stated: “Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene and adequate ventilation."