Delta Air Lines has been pretty serious about enforcing masks among its passengers. In fact, the airline has banned nearly 1,000 passengers for violating Delta’s face mask policy, according to an internal memo from Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
Until now, airlines have been on their own when it comes to implementing mask policies. But as the memo notes, they are finally getting some reinforcement from the federal government, thanks to new travel rules that went into effect this week following an executive order from President Joe Biden and a broad mandate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requiring masks throughout the country’s transportation system.
“We recently got good news when President Biden signed an executive order mandating face masks across interstate travel, including airports and aircraft,” Bastian writes in the memo, shared on Twitter by Reuters transportation reporter David Shepardson. “This adds a layer of protection for our people who have been integral in enforcing our mask policy.”
Back in August, employees returned a plane to the gate before takeoff to disembark two Delta passengers for refusing to wear masks, as SELF reported. (The carrier had banned 120 passengers at the time of the August incident.) “To date, we’ve banned approximately 950 people for failing to comply with the mask requirement,” Bastian says. He credits employees and “actions such as blocking middle seats, mandating masks, and regularly testing Delta people” for helping customers feel safe onboard.
Delta isn’t the only airline that’s had to ban people from flying for refusing to wear masks, but it appears to be doing so more frequently than other companies. A January 24 Business Insider report reviewing data from several major airlines found that Delta topped the list. At that point, Delta had banned 880 passengers out of over 2,500 total banned. (Airlines including American and Southwest Airlines didn’t provide data, so that total number is surely an underestimate.) A Delta spokesperson told Insider that passengers banned for refusing to wear masks might be permitted to fly with the airline again after the policy is no longer in effect.
With the new CDC mandate, travelers who refuse to wear a mask on domestic or U.S.-bound international flights or at the airport will now be violating Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules and federal law in addition to individual airline policies. People are permitted to briefly take off their masks for eating, drinking, or taking medications, but must wear their masks “between bites and sips,” the TSA says. Airline passengers who don’t comply can be denied entry or boarding, and might face civil penalties.
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