Face masks becoming mandatory on some airlines

JetBlue is first major U.S. airline to require face coverings for customers; American Airlines’ flight attendants will all wear masks

New York University student Hector Medrano checks into for his flight at JetBlue's terminal in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York last month. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (Kathy Willens, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Air travel is going to look a lot different as we continue through the coronavirus pandemic.

JetBlue announced that starting May 4, all customers on their flights will be required to wear a face covering. The New York-based airline had already required crewmembers to wear face coverings and becomes the first major U.S. airline to require passengers to cover their faces.

Delta Air Lines is “strongly encouraging” passengers to wear masks that it is offering to them, while also is mandating that many employees wear them. American Airlines announced that all flight attendants will be wearing masks as of Friday. United Airlines previously announced that flight attendants had to wear face coverings.

“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself it’s about protecting those around you,” Joanna Geraghty, president and CEO of JetBlue, said in a statement. “This is the new flying etiquette. Onboard, 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. We are also asking our customers to follow these CDC guidelines in the airport as well.”

JetBlue’s policy will include check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning, the company says.

Small children are exempt from that requirement.

The Association of Flight Attendants applauded JetBlue’s measure and is calling for other airlines to follow.

“Good job, jetBlue for being the first U.S. airline to take this responsible step, which CDC advises will help slow the spread of the virus,” the AFA said in a statement. “Most U.S. airlines are now requiring Flight Attendants to wear a mask while working, but we need passengers to wear masks in order to best protect everyone onboard, including crew. 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.”

JetBlue says that since March it has been limiting the number of seats available for sale on most flights, in order to provide social distance between people who aren’t traveling together.

American Airlines says it will also begin distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers in early May.

“We are looking out for our customers’ well-being to give them peace of mind while they travel with us,” said Kurt Stache, American’s senior VP of customer experience. “We’re moving quickly on these enhancements and we’ll continue to improve the travel experience for our customers and team members as we navigate these times together.”

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