US Carriers Make It Tougher To Claim Exemption from Mask Policies

Business Travel News 7/22/2020

AAA World Article

U.S. airlines are continuing to beef up their requirements for passenger facial coverings, particularly among those claiming exemptions for medical reasons.

Beginning Friday, United Airlines will require passengers to wear facial coverings in airports as well as onboard aircraft, the carrier announced on Wednesday. That includes at service counters, kiosks, United Club lounges, gates and baggage claim areas, and noncompliant passengers might be banned from flying for at least as long as the mask requirement is in place. In addition, United will exempt only children under the age of 2 from the requirement, and passengers who claim "extraordinary circumstances" to be exempt will have to contact the carrier.

Earlier this week, Delta Air Lines introduced a "Clearance-To-Fly" process for any passenger who says they have an underlying condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. The process, which will include consulting a third-party medical professional facilitated by a Delta agent, can take as long as an hour and is required before every trip.

Both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines on Wednesday announced an even harder line, saying they were allowing no exemptions on their facial covering requirements for passengers over the age of 2. American also announced that, as of July 29, it would require passengers to wear facial coverings from the time they arrive at the airport until leaving their arrival airport, the only exception being when passengers are eating or drinking.

Although airlines have been getting tougher on facial covering requirements, executives say passengers have been overwhelmingly compliant. In United's earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Scott Kirby said that the carrier has had to take action against fewer than 30 out of the millions of passengers on United since the requirement began.

"It is a distinctly small minority that don't want to wear a mask," Kirby said. "The vast majority of our employees and customers already follow the mask policy because they recognize it's the right thing to do for the safety of everyone."

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