Face masks won't be enforced on board

United Airlines, American and Delta won't let you get on their planes without wearing a mask. But once on board, you won't be forced to wear it. Employee policies reviewed by Reuters found that the top three U.S. carriers have told their flight crews not to force passengers to comply with a new policy requiring them to cover their faces.

American Airlines has told its flight attendants that their role is informational, not enforcement, regarding masks. United counseled its crew to use their "de-escalation skills" and reseat any passengers as needed. Delta said it has a similar policy.

In addition, American has told its pilots that as long as a passenger not wearing a mask is being otherwise compliant and not disruptive, they should not trigger a response that would cause the captain to divert the flight.

The three airlines exempt young children and people with medical conditions or disabilities from wearing masks. Passengers may remove them when eating or drinking.

The pandemic has crushed demand for travel. With fewer planes in the skies, some flights are nearly packed. But while the major U.S. carriers require face coverings, the Federal Aviation Administration has declined to implement the requirement. Several airline unions have called for a federal mandate on measures that include masks, social distancing and cleaning.

Video Transcript

FRED KATAYAMA: United Airlines, American, and Delta won't let you get on their planes without wearing a mask, but once on board, you won't be forced to wear it. Employee policies reviewed by Reuters found that the top-three US carriers have told their flight crews not to force passengers to comply with the new policy requiring them to cover their faces.

American Airlines has told its flight attendants that their role is informational, not enforcement, regarding masks. United counseled its crew to use their de-escalation skills and reseat any passengers as needed. Delta said it has a similar policy. In addition, American has told its pilots that as long as a passenger not wearing a mask is being otherwise compliant and not disruptive, they should not trigger a response that would cause the captain to divert the flight.

The three airlines exempt young children and people with medical conditions or disabilities from wearing masks. Passengers may remove them when eating or drinking.

The pandemic has crushed demand for travel. With fewer planes in the skies, some flights are nearly packed. But while the major US carriers require face coverings, the Federal Aviation Administration has declined to implement the requirement. Several airline unions have called for a federal mandate on measures that include masks, social distancing, and cleaning.