- JetBlue is the first airline in the United States to require passengers to wear masks on flights.
- Delta, American, United, and others are now requiring flight attendants and other employees to wear masks while on duty, while passengers will be provided masks if they want them.
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No industry has been left untouched by the novel coronavirus pandemic, but airlines have been absolutely gutted. Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) revealed that it had screened fewer than 100,000 passengers over the course of a week, down from 2.1 million in the same week the year prior. That’s a 95% drop, and a troubling sign for the industry in the months to come, even once this crisis is over.
But even amidst all of the chaos, thousands of travelers are still walking in and out of airports every day, and at long last, airlines are putting policies in place to protect both their passengers and their own employees. CNBC reports that JetBlue will require all passengers to wear a face covering starting on May 4th. This matches the company’s policy for flight attendants, and is the first time such a restriction has been imposed on passengers as well.
“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those around you,” JetBlue’s President Joanna Geraghty said. “This is the new flying etiquette.”
So far, JetBlue is the only airline to require a face covering for passengers, but Delta Air Lines and American Airlines both announced on Monday that they will require employees to wear masks and will offer them to passengers as well. United Airlines began mandating the same for its employees last week.
American says that it will hand out face masks and sanitizing wipes to passengers and enhance cleaning protocols by disinfecting tray tables, seat belt buckles, windows, seat-back displays, galleys, jump seats, and every surface in the cockpit. Delta says that flight attendants need to wear face masks whenever it is not possible for them to keep more than six feet from a customer or another employee starting this Tuesday and through at least June 30th, at which point the airlines says that it will “reevaluate and update as necessary.”
“All airlines should follow JetBlue’s lead, including its efforts to fully communicate the change before it becomes effective next week so that Flight Attendants are not put in the position of being enforcers without information and backing from the airline,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.
These precautions are certainly welcome in light of the ongoing pandemic, but considering that I can’t even walk into my local grocery store without a mask, it’s rather surprising that most of the major airlines are still giving passengers the choice to sit on a crowded flight for hours without any kind of face covering.