US airlines threaten to ban passengers who refuse to wear masks

Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson, Reuters

Posted at Jun 16 2020 07:01 AM | Updated as of Jun 16 2020 07:57 AM

US airlines threaten to ban passengers who refuse to wear masks 1
A Southwest Airlines Co. employee wears a protective mask while assisting a passenger at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on an unusually empty Memorial Day weekend during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, US, May 23, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon, Reuters/File

US airline passengers who refuse to wear facial coverings could have their flying privileges revoked, the industry's main lobby group said on Monday.

As of now, major US airlines may prevent anyone not wearing a mask from boarding and provide the coverings to passengers who have none. Once on board, however, flight attendants have little power to enforce the policy if passengers remove their masks.

Carriers implementing the new policy include Alaska Airlines , American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, Airlines for America said in a statement.

The airlines will clearly inform passengers about their individual policies on face coverings before flying, followed by an announcement with specific details onboard, it said.

Each carrier will determine the appropriate consequences for passengers who fail to comply with their policy, up to and including being put on that airline's no-fly list.

Some airlines offer certain exemptions for young children or people with medical conditions or disabilities, and when people are eating or drinking.

The measures are expected to remain in place throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis, the lobby said. 

Some airlines and unions have called for a federal mandate on safety measures including aircraft cleaning, face coverings and the number of seats that should be sold on each flight.

"Now is not the time to have airlines competing with each other when it comes to safety," the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines' pilots, said on Monday.

US airlines have drastically scaled back their flying schedules and are burning through billions of dollars in cash every month as the coronavirus pandemic crushes the travel industry, but have lately pointed to some signs that demand is improving.