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Top airlines tell flight attendants not to force passengers to wear masks: report

Top airlines tell flight attendants not to force passengers to wear masks: report
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Three of the United States' top airlines have reportedly instructed employees to not force passengers to wear face coverings during flights, though airlines say they are enforcing the policy when travelers are at gates to board airplanes.

American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have told flight attendants that they should encourage passengers to comply with new policies that require travelers to wear face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, but the airlines said employees should not force them to do so on flights, Reuters reports, citing employee policies it reviewed.

The wire service noted that while the airlines said they have given their employees the prerogative to bar passengers from boarding a flight it they don't have a mask on, getting a passenger to wear a mask once on a plane becomes more difficult.

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“Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy,” American explained to its pilots in a message obtained by Reuters. The policy reportedly went into effect Monday.

Joshua Freed, spokesman for the airline, added: “American, like other U.S. airlines, requires customers to wear a face covering while on board, and this requirement is enforced at the gate while boarding. We also remind customers with announcements both during boarding and at departure.”

A spokesperson from United told the wire service that passengers without masks on would be addressed before boarding occurs, and Delta confirmed to Reuters that it has a similar policy.

During the pandemic, demand for flights has plummeted over 90 percent, which all airlines drastically reducing their fleets and their number of daily flights.

Many airlines have required that passengers wear masks while flying, but the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to issue federal guidance on the situation.

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proactively taking steps to help address the widespread economic and health effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the aviation industry," the agency said Monday in a statement.