JetBlue becomes first US airline to require passenger face coverings

Apr 28, 2020

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JetBlue was one of the first U.S. airlines to mandate crew to wear masks while working. And now, it’s the first to require the same from passengers.

This new policy, which goes into effect on May 4, 2020, will be applied throughout all steps of the passenger journey — from check-in all the way through deplaning. JetBlue plans to remind passengers of this policy both before their flight and in the airport terminals.

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In explaining the news, JetBlue states that it’s modeling its policy off of the CDC guidelines stating that wearing face coverings help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Long Island City based carrier states that the mask must cover both the nose and mouth to satisfy these requirements.

Related: Will a face mask keep you safe from viruses on a plane?

Per CDC guidance, a face covering can be any item of cloth that fits snugly against the side of the face, can be secured with ties or ear loops, has multiple layers of fabric and allows for unrestricted breathing. The new policy specifically mentions that surgical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for first responders. Notably, small children who cannot maintain a face covering are exempt from the policy.

Related: JetBlue begins flying new “tag” routes in order to comply with CARES Act

Though this is a new requirement, there’s no stated penalty if a passenger refuses to cover their nose and mouth when asked to do so. Presumably, a passenger won’t be allowed to travel without an adequate face covering.

Related: American Airlines announces dramatic new anti-coronavirus measures

This new policy joins JetBlue’s other initiatives to create a safe and healthy space onboard its planes. Since late March, JetBlue has limited the number of seats available for sale on most flights to promote social distancing. It also restricts seat assignments near flight attendant jumpseats.

The carrier has also pared down its renowned food and beverage service to just a single snack selection, as well as water for all its flights in coach. Buy-on-board sales have been suspended.

Related: All major US airlines cut inflight service, lounge access due to coronavirus

Some JetBlue planes feature a self-serve pantry (including its newest Airbus A321neo), but that’s now closed. Mint business-class passengers will be served food from the EatUp menu, as well as red and white wine, and beer, though special meals will not be available.

Though JetBlue is the first U.S. carrier to require passengers to wear masks, our neighbor up north has had a similar policy for about a week. On Friday, April 17, the Canadian Minister of Transport announced that all travelers must have masks that cover their nose and mouth while traveling starting on April 20.

It’ll be interesting to see if — and when — other U.S. airlines match the JetBlue policy. As we predicted, flying in the age of the coronavirus will look a lot different than before.

All photos by the author.

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