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Southwest memo says it will not deny boarding if customers don't wear masks

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 8:56 AM
Updated: May 14, 2020 2:15 PM


Southwest Airlines has told flight crews not to stop passengers from boarding if they refuse to wear a mask, according to an internal memo obtained by CNN.

'We will not deny boarding solely based on a Customer's refusal to wear a face covering,' the memo reads.

This seems to be a more lax policy than some of the other airlines.

American Airlines' policy says customers 'may be denied boarding' for not wearing a mask. United's policy would allow boarding in most cases but the policy notes, 'there could be an isolated situation where a customer may be denied boarding as a last resort.'

JetBlue Airways' language seems to be the most restrictive, with its memo saying, 'Customers who refuse to comply with our policy will be denied boarding.'

Southwest Airlines wants flight attendants to inform customers of the policy but not enforce it, according to the airline's memo.

Southwest flight attendants should approach the situation with 'empathy and respect,' the memo reads.

'You are expected to inform Customers of our face covering requirement but are not expected to be the enforcers -- ask the Customer to comply with wearing a face covering if they are able.'

Southwest provided a statement to CNN Thursday, saying that as a society we must 'partly rely on common sense and responsible actions.' Employees are instructed to 'respectfully request' that customers abide by the mask policy.

'Although Southwest is not denying boarding based solely upon a Customer not wearing a mask, we are providing masks and strongly encouraging Customers comply with the policy out of respect for the well-being of other Customers and our Employees during these unprecedented times,' the statement reads.

Passenger cooperation is key

For the most part, it seems that US airlines will rely on passenger cooperation rather than strict enforcement of their mask requirements.

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 reseat 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 as well.

The nation's airlines have all implemented policies that passengers must wear masks, following guidance from the CDC. But the FAA and TSA have not passed policies requiring masks for passengers as a matter of government-enforced rules.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 498560

Reported Deaths: 9939
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34150535
DeSoto31916399
Hinds31878624
Jackson24352379
Rankin21928388
Lee15450235
Madison14547279
Jones13789241
Forrest13428250
Lauderdale11944315
Lowndes10966185
Lamar10491135
Pearl River9454237
Lafayette8462138
Hancock7703126
Washington7371157
Oktibbeha7118130
Monroe6740174
Warren6656176
Pontotoc6620102
Neshoba6613206
Panola6466131
Marshall6398132
Bolivar6268146
Union596794
Pike5794152
Alcorn5646101
Lincoln5421134
George494979
Scott471198
Tippah466081
Prentiss464881
Leflore4631144
Itawamba4605105
Adams4577119
Tate4553109
Copiah445692
Simpson4423116
Yazoo440386
Wayne438572
Covington427894
Marion4222107
Sunflower4217104
Coahoma4127104
Leake407687
Newton381079
Grenada3700108
Stone358764
Tishomingo358091
Attala330589
Jasper328565
Winston313491
Clay306775
Chickasaw297867
Clarke290694
Calhoun278145
Holmes267287
Smith262450
Yalobusha232847
Tallahatchie225851
Walthall217763
Greene216048
Lawrence211440
Perry204855
Amite204055
Webster201845
Noxubee185940
Montgomery179356
Jefferson Davis170942
Carroll168238
Tunica159039
Benton147538
Kemper141341
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131637
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106328
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 814363

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1141131910
Mobile722941323
Madison52048686
Shelby37315341
Baldwin37098540
Tuscaloosa34973599
Montgomery33996725
Lee23158240
Calhoun22168470
Morgan20675372
Etowah19770496
Marshall18258300
Houston17314405
St. Clair15924337
Cullman15333290
Limestone15239198
Elmore15095284
Lauderdale14163294
Talladega13728272
DeKalb12575259
Walker11096366
Blount10104174
Autauga9904146
Jackson9795180
Coffee9182189
Dale8866181
Colbert8794200
Tallapoosa7045195
Escambia6747127
Covington6688179
Chilton6595160
Russell626358
Franklin5936105
Chambers5562142
Marion4960126
Dallas4897199
Clarke473482
Pike4721105
Geneva4564126
Winston4478101
Lawrence4269117
Bibb421786
Barbour356075
Marengo334189
Monroe330662
Randolph327763
Butler324894
Pickens314082
Henry311265
Hale309487
Cherokee300557
Fayette291079
Washington251151
Cleburne247058
Crenshaw243775
Clay240867
Macon230762
Lamar218146
Conecuh185752
Coosa179038
Lowndes174161
Wilcox167838
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131138
Greene125844
Choctaw87027
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