Southwest and American Airlines have eliminated all exemption from their face-covering policies except for travelers under two years old. It is due to the safety risk of asymptomatic virus transmission by passengers without masks, the air careers noted.
The new requirements come soon after numerous governors require residents to wear masks almost always when they leave home.
Until recently, most US airlines have been flexible regarding the face masks and allowed exceptions for passengers with medical conditions. United Airlines and Delta required that any conditions were cleared before boarding.
Starting July 27, Southwest will no longer allow medical or disability exemptions, making it very clear that customers refusing to comply with the new mandate will not be allowed to board the plane.
American Airlines' mandate goes into effect July 29, the airline confirmed. All passengers over the age of two should wear face coverings at airports and onboard. The only time when passengers are allowed to remove the masks is when they are eating or drinking.
Separately, Southwest also announced plans to block passengers from booking middle seats through at least October in a bid to secure social distancing onboard.
The Dallas-based airline will also start testing thermal cameras to detect fevers among passengers. The new coronavirus precaution measure will begin at the Dallas Love Field airport.
During the 30-to 90-trial of the technical equipment, the cameras will not initially be used on travelers, Southwest noted. According to Scott Halfmann, vice president of Safety at Southwest, the cameras could provide an additional layer of precaution for the company's crew and customers.
Dallas Love Field airport is the second nationwide to roll out thermal cameras, after Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Last month, LAX announced it would start using similar equipment and would secure voluntary scans for passengers using its Tom Bradley International Terminal.
More and more airports around the world are rolling out thermal cameras and other similar technologies to limit the spread of the novel virus. In April, Hong Kong International Airport installed thermal camera booths.
So far, leading US airlines have failed to convince the White House to mandate temperature testing for all airline passengers. According to President Trump's administration, the question remains what agency would be responsible if someone is not allowed to board.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the airlines' requirement to wear a facial covering?