U.S. airlines are taking their first steps toward requiring passengers to wear face masks on flights, as JetBlue will make face coverings mandatory starting next Monday, May 4. American Airlines says it will begin offering face masks to passengers in early May, but only its flight attendants will be required to wear them.
It's just the latest way travel is changing to combat coronavirus. Airlines have implemented new cleaning procedures, boarding processes, and even blocked middle seats on the plane to increase social distancing. But last week, the nation's largest flight attendant union asked U.S. regulators to require all airline employees and passengers to wear face masks.
Canada made masks mandatory on flights earlier this month, but U.S. regulators have not – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a face mask when social distancing isn't possible. So airlines are moving on their own.
These new measures from American and JetBlue come after photos and videos of packed planes in the U.S. caused an uproar this weekend. Slowly but surely, more people are getting on planes – but airlines are operating fewer flights. That's a recipe for packing people into tight quarters on planes.
Well silly me thinking that an airline would adhere to social distancing guidelines. Currently abroad a nearly full @AmericanAir flight and I’ve never felt less safe or cared for in my entire life pic.twitter.com/sx5STfHKBI
— erin strine (@ErinStrine) April 25, 2020
“This is the new flying etiquette,” Joana Geraghty, JetBlue's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “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.”
JetBlue had already required its flight attendants to wear masks, so this is an additional step. Only young children will be exempt from the requirement.
American Airlines isn't going quite as far. The airline announced late Monday that it would begin offering face masks to passengers “in early May” and will “expand to all flights as supplies and operational conditions allow.” But only flight attendants will be required to wear the masks in-flight, starting May 1.
On the plus side, American says it will also distribute sanitizing wipes or gels to passengers along with face masks.
These two airlines won't be the last to make face masks more common in-flight within the U.S. Even if the U.S. government doesn't make it official, more airlines will almost certainly adopt these requirements.