Most US airlines will soon require passenger masks

May 3, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post and has been updated with the latest airline information. 

Without any specific requirements from the federal government, U.S.-based airlines are developing their own policies to help keep employees and passengers safe, limiting the potential for exposure to coronavirus throughout their journeys.

Earlier this week, JetBlue announced a new requirement for passengers to wear face masks beginning on May 4. Now Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Southwest, Spirit and United have joined the fight with similar policies of their own.


All Alaska employees who can’t maintain six feet of separation are required to wear face masks, and, as of May 11, all passengers are required to wear masks as well. The airline will have masks available for passengers who forget theirs at home.


Beginning May 11, all passengers will be required to wear a face covering onboard all American Airlines flights.The carrier had already said it would require all flight attendants to wear masks as of May 1. The airline will begin issuing sanitizing wipes and masks to travelers as well — those amenities should be available across American’s network within the next few weeks.


Delta customers are required to wear a face covering or mask. Similarly, all Delta employees and contractors are required to wear face masks when they can’t maintain a separation of at least six feet. According to the airline, “Face coverings will be required starting in the check-in lobby and across Delta touchpoints including Delta Sky Clubs, boarding gate areas, jet bridges and on board the aircraft for the duration of the flight – except during meal service.” Face masks will be available upon request at ticket counters, gates and onboard flights.


Frontier customers will be required to wear masks onboard all flights beginning May 8, as an expansion of the carrier’s policy for flight crews, which went into effect on April 13. Unlike with American and Delta, Frontier won’t be making face masks available to customers — they’ll need to bring their own.


Hawaiian Airlines is requiring all passengers to wear face coverings starting on May 8, joining a previous requirement for crew members.

The airline will also be creating more personal space at check-in, boarding and on flights. Guests will be asked to remain seated at the gate area until their row is called. In addition, if you’re seated in the Main Cabin, you’ll board from the rear of the plane in groups of three to five rows at a time. If you require special assistance or are seated in First Class, you’ll be able to pre-board.

The airline will also be blocking middle seats to provide more personal space on board, and will continue to use electrostatic spraying with hospital-grade disinfectants to clean and sanitize cabins.


All JetBlue crew members and passengers are required to cover their nose and mouth, with the exception of small children who are unable to wear a face covering.


All Southwest employees will be required to wear face masks when interacting with customers, while customers will be required to wear masks as of May 11. Face masks and sanitizing wipes will be available upon request.


As of May 11, all Spirit passengers and customer-facing employees will be required to wear masks or face coverings. According to the airline, “guests will be expected to bring their own face coverings and will be required to wear them both at the airport and throughout the flight.”


All passengers must cover their faces, and the airline will provide masks to travelers free of charge. Additionally, face coverings will be mandatory for all United employees onboard an aircraft, joining a previous requirement for flight attendants, which went into effect on Apr. 24.

Bottom line

In addition to blocked seats and enhanced cleaning measures, mandatory face masks should offer an important layer of protection for travelers and airline staff. Still, with stay-at-home orders in place in many U.S. states, individuals should only travel if necessary. If you do need to fly, be sure to check out our detailed guide for more on what to expect during booking, at the airport and onboard.

The moves drew the support of Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, who has been asking the government to intervene and make masks mandatory.

“We’re happy to see airlines taking action to require masks or face coverings for passengers, crew and other front-line employees,” Nelson said in a statement that acknowledge the latest airline updates. “We continue to call on the federal  government — whether it be DOT, FAA, HHS, CDC — to require masks for crew, front-line employees and all passengers.”

Featured photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images.

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