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Airline industry moves toward banning customers who don't wear face masks

Airline industry moves toward banning customers who don't wear face masks
© DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

Airlines for America (A4A), which represents the major U.S. airlines, said customers could be put on a carriers' do not fly list if they refuse to wear a face mask on planes.

The industry announced new face covering policies this week, including increased preflight communications, onboard announcements and consequences for noncompliance.

Carriers will treat customers who do not wear a mask as “irregular operations, which means a report gets made and sent to the operation center at the airline,” Sharon Pinkerton, A4A senior vice president of legislative and regulatory policy, told reporters on a call on Wednesday.

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Pinkerton noted that choices will then be made about “if that passenger could be put on the carriers' do not fly list” and that airlines making that an option include JetBlue, American and Delta. United announced on Monday it would put customers who refused to wear masks on an internal travel restriction list.

“We are very hopeful that this renewed emphasis is going to result in a much higher compliance level with something that we know to be very, very important to keep each other safe, including in the onboard environment,” Pinkerton said.

Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and United CEOs held conversations last week about how to ensure a higher level of compliance for wearing face masks, she noted.

A4A announced that these airlines will now clearly articulate their face covering policy in communications with customers before flights, announce specific details regarding the face covering policy including the consequences passengers could face for violating it on the flight, and determine appropriate consequences for passengers who are found to be in noncompliance.

Consequences could include suspension of flying privileges on that airline.

Pinkerton also noted that if people are eating or have a medical exception, they will not be penalized for not wearing a mask.

“U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” A4A CEO Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement.