JetBlue, Alaska Airlines add stricter mask requirements, extend blocked seats
Last week, I explained a common face mask oversight, which, fortunately, has finally managed to get some traction over the last few days. First, Delta announced a ban on vented masks last Monday. Now, just over a week later, Spirit followed suit. Wednesday morning, JetBlue became the third U.S. airline to "prohibit masks with vents or exhalation valves" — in this case, beginning Monday, Aug. 10 — and Alaska Airlines released a similar policy of its own, kicking in on Aug. 7.
Next Monday also marks another JetBlue mask shift. JetBlue will refuse to carry any passenger who claims an exemption, joining American and Southwest, Spirit Airlines and, now, Alaska Airlines as well. As JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty explained in a press release, "Our terminals and airplanes are a shared space, and every customer must wear a proper face covering or will need to delay their travel on JetBlue until face coverings are no longer required."
All JetBlue passengers older than 2 will be required to comply with the new policy. If a flight attendant determines that a passenger's face covering is insufficient, the crew provide a suitable mask free of charge. Additionally, as is the case with a handful of other carriers, both JetBlue and Alaska customers who don't comply with the mask requirement may not be permitted to travel on the airline in the future.
Meanwhile, JetBlue is extending two other coronavirus-related programs as well.
First, the carrier's promise that you won't be seated next to a stranger will be valid through Oct. 15, an extension beyond the guarantee's current Sept. 8 end date. As part of that policy, the airline is blocking middle seats on Airbus aircraft, and aisle seats on smaller Embraer planes, to allow for more distance onboard.
Finally, JetBlue is extending its flight change waivers, also through Oct. 15., allowing customers to book travel without change or cancellation fees for all tickets purchased by that date.
At Alaska Airlines, the carrier is making similar moves. Aside from strengthening its mask policy to bar vents and remove exemptions, the Seattle-based carrier also announced Wednesday that it will continue blocking seats at least through Oct. 31. With that, Alaska and JetBlue join Delta and Southwest in extending policies to cap seat sales on each flight to help with social distancing.
And, in saying that passengers who refused to comply with mask policies would be barred from flying with the carrier, Alaska said it believes most of its customers are supportive.
"Since Alaska's mask enforcement policy was enacted in May, the overwhelming majority of guests have respected the requirement – and many guests have raised concerns about the few who do not," Alaska Airlines said in a statement. "For guests who forget their mask, Alaska will have them available upon request, in addition to providing individual hand-sanitizer wipes on board."
For more on what policies to expect when flying within the U.S., be sure to check out our detailed guide to blocked seats, mask requirements and more.