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Crew members employed by three of the largest airlines in the U.S. may be encouraging – but not forcing – passengers to wear face masks during various points of the travel journey amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite previous policies that seemed to indicate otherwise, a new report claims.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are distributing face masks to customers who do not have them and can deny boarding to anyone who is not wearing a face cover.
However, Reuters reported Tuesday that, according to employee policies, flight attendants from all three carriers have been told “not to force” passengers to comply with the face mask policy. Instead, crew members should simply “encourage” travelers to do so.
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Across the board, American, United and Delta have allowed exemptions for small children and people with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing masks from the face-covering mandate. The policy also does not apply when passengers are eating or drinking, the three airlines said.
When reached for comment, American confirmed that the carrier is requiring that passengers wear face masks during boarding, but did not disclose whether flight attendants will continue to enforce the rule during the flight.
“The safety and well-being of our customers and team members is our highest priority. 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,” a spokesperson told Fox News on Wednesday. “We also remind customers with announcements both during boarding and at departure.”
A representative for Delta echoed similar sentiments, explaining where and when face masks are required for passengers during travel.
“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our employees and customers. Customers are required to wear face coverings beginning in the check-in lobby, and across Delta touchpoints including Delta Sky Clubs, in jet bridges and onboard for the duration of the flight — except during the food and beverage service,” a spokesperson told Fox News. “A face mask is required to begin the boarding process, and also strongly encouraged in high-traffic areas including security lines and restrooms.”
Though a spokesperson for United was not immediately available to comment, a rep for the carrier told Reuters that any passengers who object to the face mask mandate will be addressed at the boarding gate. Flight attendants, meanwhile, have been advised to employ their “de-escalation skills” if any issues were to arise on the aircraft, the outlet reported.
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Amid the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that everyone wear a “cloth face covering” in community settings, “including during travel if they must travel.”
Unions representing flight attendants and pilots have also championed the idea of requiring masks for everyone on board, but there is not a mandate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for such measures as of yet.
For more information on which airlines are requiring face masks for passengers and employees, check out this all-inclusive roundup.
Fox News’ Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.