DETROIT, Mich. (WLNS) – Last week, A Delta Air Lines flight was forced to return to the gate in Detroit when two of their customers wouldn’t wear masks.
When it comes to the new rules for the novel coronavirus, airlines like Delta are taking them very seriously. Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian claims that Delta has placed 100 people on its “no-fly list” over mask issues.
“You cannot board a Delta plane unless you have a mask on,” said Bastian. “If you board the plane and insist on not wearing a mask, we insist that you do not fly Delta into the future.”
Delta says its strict policies about masking are part of an effort to promote best public health practices and safety amid the pandemic.
In a statement provided to NPR, Delta wrote: “Medical research tells us that wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate.” The airline “remains committed to requiring customers and employees to wear a mask or face covering as a consistent layer of protection across all Delta touchpoints.”
All major U.S. airlines now require passengers to wear face coverings, but adults are generally permitted to remove a mask only when eating or drinking, though policy varies.
Some airlines are going a step further in creating new pandemic policies. Emirates airline “Free global coverage for COVID-19,” includes financial assistance for COVID-19 health expenses for those who test positive for the virus during their trip as well as covering funeral costs.
Delta’s no-fly list is perfectly within its scope of rights, experts stress.
The legal reasoning is pretty straightforward, says Sharona Hoffman, co-director of Case Western Reserve University’s Law-Medicine Center. She puts it simply: “They’re a private business, and private businesses can have rules.”
“No one has a right to fly,” explains Eduardo Angeles, a lawyer who served as Federal Aviation Administration. Instead, you’re just a participant navigating the free market: “You have several options [to get to your destination] — car, train, foot. And in this way, an airline is just like a restaurant: It can deny service to somebody for reasons that are specific to [it],” he says.
Plus, for airlines, the risk posed by a passenger without a mask could be a concern, says Dr. Julie Cantor, an attorney, and physician who studies the intersection of law and medicine.
As for exceptions to the mask rule, Delta’s procedure involves a “virtual consultation process facilitated by a Delta agent with a third-party medical professional [and] could take up to an hour.” The airline generally encourages customers with underlying conditions that preclude mask-wearing to “reconsider travel altogether.”
For those who land on the no-fly list because of mask infractions, processes to get your name removed would likely vary from airline to airline, guesses Angeles. “They have to go through their due process and appeal with the airline.”