Airlines are having trouble enforcing their face mask policies

Airlines are having to develop their own safety guidelines for social distancing as flights bookings increase. CNN's Pete Muntean reports.

Posted: May 14, 2020 3:31 AM
Updated: May 14, 2020 3:31 AM

Plans from several major US airlines on how to enforce their mandatory mask requirements reveal that, for the most part, they will rely on passenger cooperation rather than strict enforcement.

Separate memos obtained by CNN that American Airlines sent to its pilots and flight attendants show that customers may be denied boarding for not wearing a mask. But once on the plane "the face covering policy will become more lenient" and "the flight attendant's role is informational, not enforcement," the pilot memo reads. It was first obtained by Reuters.

The American Airlines flight attendant memo describes how they should handle customers who don't comply with the policy: "please encourage them to comply, but do not escalate further. Likewise, if a customer is frustrated by another customer's lack of face covering, please use situational awareness to de-escalate the situation."

Like the American Airlines' policy, United makes exceptions for a variety of reasons including medical conditions. Its policy also points to avoiding confrontation.

"If for some reason this policy causes a disturbance onboard, we've counseled our flight attendants to use their de-escalation skills, and they do have the flexibility to re-seat customers on the aircraft as needed," United said in a statement.

JetBlue suggests workers at airports tell customers: "To help keep us all safe, customers and crewmembers are now required to wear face coverings." The airline says there will be "challenges" to enforcing its policy.

In a nod to how charged wearing masks has become, the policy says, "Please be sensitive to the current environment -- remember to leverage our Hospitality Promises and 'Ask, Bargain & Convince' skills to de-escalate a situation with a non-compliant or frustrated customer, and use your best judgement to uphold our service standards in order to minimize disruptions. While customers failing to comply will not prompt the need for diversion or immediate removal, our inflight crewmembers should advise an airports crewmember upon arrival."

Its policy also reminds workers that they aren't allowed to make people leave the terminal for not wearing a mask.

CNN has reached out to Delta and Southwest as well.

The nation's airlines have all implemented policies that passengers must wear masks, following guidance from the CDC. But neither the FAA and TSA have passed policies requiring the masks as a matter of government-enforced rules.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

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