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American Airlines, Delta, and United will all require passengers to wear masks when traveling, the airlines each announced this week.
Other US airlines are also adding the requirement, describing it as a way to protect passengers and crewmembers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The policies take effect over the next two weeks. All of the airlines are encouraging passengers to wear face coverings voluntarily in the meantime.
Most major US airlines will start requiring passengers to wear face masks when traveling, as airlines look for ways to both protect and reassure employees and potential passengers.
American, Delta, and United all announced their policies on Thursday, following JetBlue — which announced its requirement on Wednesday — and Frontier, which announced its policy earlier on Thursday. Alaska Airlines announced a similar policy on Friday.
American's policy, which takes effect May 11, will require passengers to wear a mask or another kind of face covering while on board aircraft. The airline previously required flight attendants to begin wearing masks.
Delta's policy takes effect on May 4, and requires passengers to wear masks while checking in, boarding, and throughout the flight, except for during meals. JetBlue's policy similarly requires face coverings in most public areas, including at the airport.
United's mask protocol, which also takes effect May 4, requires masks to be worn on board aircraft, while Frontier's policy goes into effect May 8. Alaska's policy begins May 11.
All of the airlines said that supplies will be available for passengers who do not bring their own masks or face coverings, and that small children and any passengers with conditions that make them unable to wear the masks will be exempt.
"The American Airlines team continues to prioritize the safety of our customers and team members, and requiring a face covering is one more way we can protect those on our aircraft," Kurt Stache, American's head of customer experience, said in a statement. "We ask customers to bring their own masks or face coverings they're comfortable with when they travel. American is working to procure face masks and hand sanitizer as a supplement."
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said she was pleased with the airlines' decisions, but called on the federal government to enact a formal requirement for passenger masks.
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"We're happy to see airlines taking action to require masks or face coverings for passengers, crew and other frontline employees," Nelson said in a statement. "We continue to call on the federal government — whether it be DOT, FAA, HSS, CDC — to require masks for crew, frontline employees and all passengers."
Airlines are seeking ways to ensure passenger and crew safety, while also convincing passengers that it will be safe to travel once states and countries begin lifting stay-at-home orders. Masks are unlikely to provide much protection to the wearer, but they can protect others nearby from possible asymptomatic carriers, who can unknowingly spread the virus despite showing no symptoms.
Airlines have also ramped up cleaning and disinfecting procedures for cabins between flights and overnight.
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