WASHINGTON (TEGNA) - JetBlue announced Monday that it will require all passengers to wear face coverings on its flights beginning May 4. American Airlines also said it will start providing customers face masks and hand sanitizer in early May.
JetBlue said its decision is modeled on policies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicate that face coverings can slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Passengers will be required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth from the time they check-in to the time they get off the plane. Small children who can't keep a face coverings on are exempt.
“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those around you,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue in a statement. “This is the new flying etiquette. Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others."
The Association of Flight Attendants applauded the move.
"Good job, jetBlue for being the first U.S. airline to take this responsible step, which CDC advises will help slow the spread of the virus. Most U.S. airlines are now requiring Flight Attendants to wear a mask while working, but we need passengers to wear masks in order to best protect everyone onboard, including crew," the union said in a statement Monday. It added that other airlines should follow JetBlue's lead, but asked passengers to take it upon themselves to wear face coverings.
American Airlines said it will provide face masks to customers, but did not go so far as to say it was a requirement to wear one. Crew members will still be required to wear them. American also said it will provide hand sanitizer or gel. The offerings will be dependent upon available supplies.
"We are looking out for our customers’ well-being to give them peace of mind while they travel with us,” said Kurt Stache, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience said in a statement.
American also said it will be using disinfectant approved by the EPA and will be cleaning "in customer areas, tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades and seatback screens" as well as wiping door and overhead bin handles. There will be enhanced cleaning of the galley area, jumpseats and crew rest seats.
The AFA sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar last week to mandate all crews, employees and passenger wear masks.
Most airlines have implemented social distancing measures on flights. These have included blocking use of the middle seats and blocking entire rows.
The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.