Airlines have a face mask enforcement problem
At this point all major US airlines require passengers to wear face masks when flying. In general face mask usage on planes is much more consistent than virtually anywhere on the ground. However, there are two major issues:
- Passengers don’t have to wear a face mask when eating or drinking, and some people really take their time with this
- The much bigger issue is that airlines have a face mask exception for those who have a disability or medical reason for why they can’t wear a mask
If someone has a medical reason for why they can’t wear a mask, that’s fine (though they really should avoid flying as much as possible, since they’re putting others at risk). However, as you’d expect, we’ve also seen several stories of passengers faking a medical condition in order to “exercise their freedoms.”
Airlines are understandably in a tough spot, since a gate agent or flight attendant isn’t qualified to assess someone’s medical condition, and that also sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Fortunately Delta has come up with a crafty solution, as bringing a copy of the Constitution and a “face mask exempt card” that you printed at home will no longer do the trick…
How Delta is improving face mask enforcement
Delta Air Lines has made changes to its face mask policy, and I love the way the Atlanta-based airline went about this. First of all, Delta states::
“Customers with health conditions or disabilities that explicitly prevent the wearing of a face covering or mask are strongly encouraged to reconsider travel”
But this is where it gets good. Those passengers who do have a condition should show up at the airport early to complete a “Clearance-to-Fly” process prior to departure, which could take over an hour. This process will include a virtual consultation with a healthcare professional, who will consider your circumstances, and could make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
Any passenger found to be making false claims about a disability or health conditions in order to obtain an exemption may have travel privileges on all Delta flights suspended for as long as the airline is requiring passengers to wear face masks.
As a Delta spokesperson explains:
“Medical research tells us that wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate. That’s why Delta remains committed to requiring customers and employees to wear a mask or face covering as a consistent layer of protection across all Delta touchpoints. We encourage customers who are prevented from wearing a mask due to a health condition to reconsider travel. If they decide to travel, they will be welcome to fly upon completing a virtual consultation prior to departure at the airport to ensure everyone’s safety, because nothing is more important.”
For the most part airlines have done a better job with mask usage than just about any other industry, in my experience.
While it’s fortunately only a very small minority of travelers who are refusing to wear face masks, it’s nice to see that Delta is taking a step towards combatting this.
Those who feel they have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask should expect to have a virtual consultation with a healthcare professional at the airport, and that process could take over an hour.
Hopefully other airlines introduce similar policies…
(Tip of the hat to Paddle Your Own Kanoo)