Do you have to wear a mask on a plane? Here's what airlines are saying

Some U.S. airlines are taking greater steps to enforce compliance, including temporary travel bans.
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By Ashley Capoot

Even though the United States continues to lead the world in both the number of deaths and confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the Transportation Security Administration has reported an overall increase in checkpoint travel numbers through May and June.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising people to wear cloth face coverings over their noses and mouths to help prevent the spread of the virus, and many airlines are taking this recommendation seriously.

Here's a look at some of the face mask travel policies that U.S. airlines have implemented.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is requiring all customers and employees to wear masks that cover their noses and mouths. The airline has extra masks available upon request and allows them to be removed while eating or drinking. Children under 2 and people with breathing problems, a disability that impedes their ability to wear a mask or who are unable to remove a mask on their own are exempt from the policy.

On June 30, Alaska Airlines announced two new ways the company plans to enforce its mask policy. All customers will be asked to sign a health agreement during check-in that says they agree to follow the airline’s face mask requirements. If a customer repeatedly chooses to disregard the mask policy, they will be handed a yellow card as a final warning. This means that a report will be filed, and the customer’s future travel with the airline could be suspended.

American Airlines

Masks are required during the boarding process and throughout the duration of American Airlines flights, but they can be removed in order to eat or drink. If customers refuse to comply, they can be denied boarding and may be denied future travel — which is what happened to a conservative activist who refused to wear a mask and was kicked off his June 17 flight in New York.

Young children and people with conditions that render them unable to wear a mask are exempt from American Airlines’ mask policy. According to the company’s website, masks are only “strongly encouraged” in the airline’s lounges.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines mandates that customers and employees wear a mask at all Delta touch points. This means people have to cover their noses and mouths while checking in at the lobby, spending time in Delta Sky Clubs, boarding, on jet bridges and throughout the flight itself. Masks can be provided if necessary and removed during meal service, and children and those with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks are exempt from the policy.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines requires customers to wear face masks at all Frontier ticket counters, gate areas and throughout flights. Young children are exempt from the policy. The airline also has tips on its website for customers interested in making their own no-sew masks.

Hawaiian Airlines

Customers who travel with Hawaiian Airlines are required to wear masks while boarding, flying and deplaning. Small children and people with underlying medical conditions or disabilities that impede their ability to wear a mask are exempt from the policy.

JetBlue

JetBlue was the first major airline to mandate that both customers and crew members wear masks. Customers have to wear face coverings while checking in, boarding, flying and deplaning, but young children are exempt from the policy.

“If a customer refuses to wear a face covering after being asked, crewmembers will work to de-escalate the situation to the best of their ability to gain compliance,” Derek Dombrowski, a spokesperson for JetBlue, told TODAY previously in an email. “If the crewmember is unable to gain compliance after following our de-escalations process, the customers will be reported to ground security personnel and will be reviewed for future travel eligibility on JetBlue.”

Southwest Airlines

Southwest requires customers to wear a mask over their noses and mouths while checking in, boarding, flying, deplaning and collecting their luggage. The airline will provide masks if customers forget to bring their own, and they are permitted to remove them while eating and drinking. Small children, people who have trouble breathing, have a disability or medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, are incapacitated or unable to remove their own masks are exempt from Southwest Airlines mask policy.

Spirit Airlines

Customers traveling with Spirit Airlines are required to wear a face mask over their nose and mouth. If a customer forgets to bring a mask, they can purchase one from Spirit for $3. Children under two and children who are unable to keep a mask on will be exempt from Spirit’s policy, but people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask must wear a face shield instead.

United Airlines

United Airlines requires customers to wear masks in flight unless they are drinking or eating. Masks can be provided if necessary, but if customers refuse to comply with United’s face mask policy while on board, they will temporarily lose travel privileges with the airline. Young children, people that are unable to remove their own masks and people that have disabilities or medical conditions that render them unable to wear a mask are exempt from the policy.