The top three U.S. airlines have told their flight attendants not to compel passengers to comply with their new policies that require face coverage, but are simply encouraging them to do so, according to Reuters’ revised employee policies.
American Airlines Group Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc, and United Airlines Holdings Inc have told employees that they can refuse boarding at the gate to anyone who does not wear face cover and provide masks to passengers who do not have it, the three airlines told Reuters .
Enforcement becomes more difficult on the plane.
“Once on board and at the gate, the face-covering policy becomes smoother. The flight attendant’s role is informative, not enforcing, regarding the face-covering policy, “American Airlines told its pilots in a message Reuters saw explaining its policy, which came into effect Monday.
“Bottom line to the pilots: a passenger on board your aircraft who meets the standard, other than wearing a face cover, is NOT considered disruptive enough to cause a threat level 1 response,” referring to some type of intentional disturbance by a passenger which could cause the pilot-in-chief to divert the flight.
US spokesman Joshua Freed said, “American, like other US airlines, requires customers on board to wear face masks, and this requirement is enforced upon boarding at the gate. We also remind customers of announcements both during boarding and on departure . ”
A United spokeswoman also said noncompliance would be addressed by travelers at the gate and flight attendants had been advised to use their “de-escalation skills” on the plane and relocate passengers if necessary.
Delta said it had a similar policy.
“ENCOURAGE THEM TO MEET”
All three airlines offer certain exceptions for young children or those with medical conditions or disabilities, and when people eat or drink.
“If the customer chooses not to meet for other reasons, encourage them to comply, but don’t escalate further,” American flight attendants told Reuters on Friday.
“Likewise, if one customer is frustrated with another customer’s lack of face coverage, use situational awareness to de-escalate the situation,” it said.
U.S. travel demand has fallen by about 94% during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing airlines to lower their flight schedules to about 30% of normal this month. With fewer planes in the air, some are flying near capacity.
The international aviation organization IATA came out last week for passengers with masks on board as the debate in the United States intensifies about the role that government agencies should play in enforcing new safety measures for flying before a vaccine is developed.
Several airline union groups have called for a federal mandate for measures such as masks, social distance and cleaning.
“Airlines operate on-the-fly policies without coordination or direction from the federal government,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 19 airlines.
“We need federal requirements to reduce the risk of this pandemic and put the safety of the crew and the traveling public first.”