Face coverings for all may soon become standard flying etiquette in the U.S.

By Christine Burroni and Hannah Chubb
April 28, 2020 09:00 AM
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American, United, Southwest and Alaska are the latest airlines requiring all passengers to wear face masks when traveling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They follow Delta, Frontier and JetBlue, who announced these requirements earlier in the week.

The requirement will begin for American, United and Alaska passengers starting on May 11, and on May 3 for Southwest passengers.

Delta made the announcement in a press release issued on Thursday, which states that "employees and customers will experience an extra layer of protection starting May 4, as we require all customers to wear a face mask or appropriate face covering when traveling."

They make clear that guests and employees must keep their masks on from the moment they arrive at the check-in kiosks and through the duration of the flight — save for meal services.

Frontier made a similar statement, noting that they would "begin requiring that passengers wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at the airline’s ticket counters, gate areas and onboard Frontier aircraft, effective May 8."

Both airlines will be making exceptions for young children.

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The statements made by Delta and Frontier are quite similar to the one made by JetBlue on Monday, which made them the first U.S. airline to require face masks for customers. Other airlines — like American and United — are currently only enforcing the rule for employees, not passengers.

“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself — it’s about protecting those around you,” Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue's president and chief operating officer, said in a press release on Monday. “This is the new flying etiquette.”

Courtesy of JetBlue

The policy — effective starting May 4 — mandates that customers wear masks or face coverings when checking in, boarding, and deplaning. They are additionally advised to wear them throughout the airport.

"On board, cabin air is well-circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes, but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others," Geraghty noted. "We are also asking our customers to follow these CDC guidelines in the airport as well.”

The protective gear must cover a customer's mouth and nose. JetBlue also acknowledged that N95 masks should be saved for medical workers.

Customers will be reminded of the new rule via email before arriving at the airport, on signs throughout the terminal, and with announcements on the plane.

The policy follows the CDC's suggestion to wear face masks when outside the house, citing that it's possible to spread the disease without knowing it.

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As a further precaution, JetBlue has also limited the number of seats for sale on each flight to maintain space between passengers and crew. The airline has "increased the rigor of its aircraft cleanings at night and between flights," as well as limited their food and beverage service to reduce contact.

Currently, the airline is only flying in and out of Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., restricting service to one or two airports in each city until at least June.

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