Travel Tuesday: Follow Airline Mask Mandates or Get Banned
This might come as a surprise to you, but the travel industry has changed a tremendous amount over the past year — shocking, I know. In a bid to comply with local regulations and CDC recommendations as well as, you know, keep their flyers safe, several airlines have adjusted their operations to not only ask more of their staff but also of their customers. Unfortunately, not all of these changes have been well received. In fact, one key sticking point that seems to still be an issue even all these many months into the pandemic involves the wearing of face masks.
With face masks being largely new to American society, it’s understandable that there’s been some confusion about and even animosity toward wearing them. Yet — coupled with the equally as important physical distancing when possible — they remain a key component in resuming some activities as safely as possible. Thus, by the time summer rolled around, several airlines began requiring that passengers wear masks for the duration of their flight, even offering free face coverings to those who may not have had one of their own. These rules have even been tightened some as previous loopholes (such as ones allowing mask removal when eating and drinking) were exploited. So, while gate agents and flight crews have likely done their best to give warnings and reminders, occasionally they’ve had to cut ties with troublesome customers, adding them to what is at least a temporary ban list.
To find out just how many passengers were no longer welcome on certain airlines for their maskless antics, The Points Guy tapped their contacts at some of these airlines to inquire. The results are pretty interesting:
- Alaska: 302
- Allegiant: 10 (as of November 19th, 2020)
- Delta: 700+
- Frontier: 500+
- Hawaiian: 14 (as of November 19th, 2020)
- JetBlue: 114
- Spirit: 167 (as of September 8th, 2020)
- United: 615
These figures potentially tell a few different stories. Obviously it makes sense that larger carriers operating more routes would see a higher rate of incidents. Meanwhile, others such as Allegiant (which often runs routes just a couple of times per week) would see far lower bans. Then again, it’s also possible that those with lower numbers are also not as quick to ban travelers as others or that their passengers are just more compliant — who’s to say?
Interestingly, I could actually see the number of infractions increasing in the near future as more people are vaccinated. While it’s unclear how airlines will adjust their policies as vaccines roll out, it’s not hard to imagine that someone who’s received both doses may no longer want to wear a mask — which may still be a violation of policy. To that point, it also seems like a forgone conclusion that airlines (and/or destinations) will eventually require proof of vaccination as a requirement for boarding once inoculations are available enough that enforcing such a policy wouldn’t dry up demand completely.
Obviously, airlines rightfully receive a lot of flack for a number of their decisions. But, it’s hard not to sympathize with the industry this time around. In order for airlines to stay afloat, they need to keep flying — and, in order to keep flying, they need passengers to follow their safety regulations.
The good news is that, with vaccinations shipping out, it seems we’re now on a path that will bring us safely back to the skies. However, in the meantime, there are some important rules that travelers will need to follow regardless of who they are. Even if you’re upset about a government-issued mask mandate, that’s really no excuse to disobey a private business’s stated policy — and, in turn, that private entity has a right to ban you if you aren’t willing to follow their rules. In other words, stay safe, be helpful, and don’t be a dick.