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If you insist on no mask, 'we'll insist you don't fly Delta,' CEO says

Delta CEO Ed Bastian says customers who board flights and then refuse to wear their mask will be banned from future flights on the airline.
/ Source: TODAY

If you refuse to wear a mask on a Delta flight, the CEO says you should find another airline.

Ed Bastian spoke with Willie Geist on TODAY Wednesday about how the airline has been "steadily and rather aggressively" stepping up enforcement of its mask policy to keep crew and passengers safe during the pandemic.

"You cannot board a Delta plane unless you have a mask on,'' he said. "If you board the plane and you insist on not wearing your mask, we will insist that you don't fly Delta into the future. We already have over 100 people we've put on that list."

While all the major airlines have instituted a policy requiring customers to wear masks, Delta announced Monday that passengers who claim they are unable to wear masks due to a health condition must be medically cleared at the airport or consider another mode of transit.

"We implemented a new procedure this week because we've had some customers indicate that they have underlying condition that makes wearing a mask dangerous for them," Bastian said. "We've told them that you may not want to fly, to reconsider whether air travel is the right form of transportation."

The airline's "Clearance-to-Fly" procedure involves a screening conducted in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and STAT-MD, a physician service that provides consulting to airlines.

The process can take more than an hour, and anyone found falsifying claims of disability or a health condition to get a mask exemption could be suspended from flying Delta as long as the mask requirement is in effect, the company said in its news release.

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Bastian also highlighted other safety precautions like Delta planes being regularly sanitized and electrostatically fogged. Flights are booked to 60% of their capacity and middle seats are blocked off.

"The flight experience today is really positive,'' he said. "I know there's a lot of anxiety in the general public and even from road warriors who have been out flying for years. The first time back, there's a level of angst that they need to almost be walked through the process."

Like all of the major airlines, Delta has been hemorrhaging money during the pandemic. The company was losing $100 million a day in March, which was reduced to $27 million a day in June.

Bastian called the money earmarked for the airline industry by Congress in the CARES Act "immeasurable" in being able to pay employees during the pandemic. The provision from the CARES Act, which was signed in March, is set to expire by the end of September, when several airlines have said massive layoffs could occur.

Almost 20% of Delta's employees will be retiring on Aug. 1, which will cut some costs for the company. Bastian was asked if the airline will need another round of money from the federal government when the CARES Act expires.

"I don't know," he said. "We're trying hard not to."

"We need demand to come back," he continued. "I don't know if government assistance is the answer. What we really need is a vaccine, we need some medical confidence back in consumers and to continue to restore confidence in air travel."