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Airlines threaten to ban travelers who refuse to wear face masks

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FILE – In this March 20, 2020 file photo, an empty baggage carousel spins in Denver International Airport as travelers deal with the spread of the coronavirus in Denver. Airline service in the United States is teetering on the brink of collapse, with near-empty planes and coronavirus-caused outbreaks that have left some air traffic control towers empty. Even with sharply reduced schedules, airlines are consolidating some of the remaining flights because passengers aren’t showing up. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Several airlines in the U.S. are threatening to ban passengers who refuse to wear face masks while traveling. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines will be implementing new face mask policies, the Airlines for America trade group said Monday. 

Airlines will clearly articulate the rules to passengers before flying and flight crews will reiterate the rules once on board, including the consequences passengers could face for violating the policy. Each carrier will determine the proper penalty for passengers who don’t comply – which could include suspension of flying privileges. 

Each airline can also offer certain exemptions, including when people are eating or drinking. The mask policy works in conjunction with other safety measures like intensive cleaning protocols to slow the spread of coronavirus, which most airlines have adopted. 

The Association of Flight Attendant-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 19 airlines, also released a statement about the face covering policy, saying it is important – but it’s up to the federal government to do more. 

“Masks are essential to keep passengers, flight attendants, and frontline aviation workers safe during the Coronavirus pandemic. It is also essential to rebuild confidence in air travel,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendant-CWA, said in a statement to CBS News. “The federal government has completely abdicated its responsibility to keep the flying public and aviation workers safe during COVID-19.”

“Today’s action by Airlines for America members is important, but the industry alone cannot fix this. We once again call on the federal government to mandate masks for passengers and frontline workers and implement broader action on COVID-19 safety measures in aviation,” Nelson’s statement continued. 

The CDC recently recommended that all Americans wear face coverings in public when social distancing is difficult. Some cities, like New York, require residents to wear masks when they cannot social distance, and stores and other businesses have been told they can turn away people who do not wear face coverings. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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