If you count yourself among those who refuse to wear a mask during the current pandemic, your next flight on a Delta Airlines aircraft might be your last one for the foreseeable future. While Delta says they will not throw a passenger off the aircraft at the departure gate for refusal to wear a protective mask, those who refuse run great risk of being banned from future flights aboard the airline.
Last Thursday, June 25th, Delta Airlines Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian dispatched a memo to the airline’s employees saying that the air carrier will ban customers who refuse to wear face coverings. The airline has been working to getting planes back into the air in as safe a manner as possible, and has a stated policy requiring all employees and customers to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Just days earlier Bastian had told a press interview that while flight attendants on Delta “would not forcibly remove” adamant customers refusing to wear the protection because no federal mandate has been declared, however his memo voiced concerns about recent spikes of COVID-19 cases in some regions of the country, and reinforced the company’s mask policy as being in line with rules established by a commercial air lobbying organization, Airlines for America.
In his memo, Bastian says, “One of the most effective measures we have is wearing a mask, which numerous studies have shown can slow the spread of the virus,” and adds, “They are required for our customers as well as our people, and passengers must follow crew member instruction to properly wear them in flight.”
Bastian says, “We take the requirement to wear a mask very seriously,” adding, “Customers who choose not to comply with this or any other safety requirement risk losing their future flight privileges with Delta. So far, there have thankfully only been a handful of cases, but we have already banned some passengers from future travel on Delta for refusing to wear masks on board.”
There was no immediate word if mask refusal leads to an automatic ban or takes other information into account in each incident, and there was no clear delineation on how long a ban would run.
Delta’s concern is understandable considering that roughly 500 of their employees have contracted COVID-19 in recent months and 10 have actually died from the virus. The airline has increased testing for all employees this month.
Delta is a major air travel provider at South Bend International Airport, where flights have been added back into the line up in recent weeks.