This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
In an effort to add an extra layer of protection to those on flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta Air Lines is now asking maskless fliers to “reconsider travel” or undergo a health screening prior to flying. Since May, passengers on Delta have been required to wear masks in the gate area, in Delta Sky Clubs, during boarding, and on flights (except during meal service). Children under eight are exempt, as are those with medical conditions including autism, other cognitive or physical disabilities, and illnesses that require supplemental oxygen.
“We encourage customers who are prevented from wearing a mask due to a health condition to reconsider travel,” Delta said in a statement to AFAR. “If they decide to travel, they will be welcome to fly upon completing a virtual consultation prior to departure at the airport to ensure everyone’s safety, because nothing is more important.”
So what does a “virtual consultation” consist of? According to Delta, the screening is an interview conducted over the phone by a physician from STAT-MD, the airline’s existing partner for in-flight consultations. The evaluation will be done in private and can take more than an hour, so passengers who need to complete the “Clearance-to-Fly” process are asked to arrive early for their flight. Should travelers not get clearance to fly maskless and choose not to board their flight, they will receive a refund, according to a Delta spokesperson. Delta warns that anyone attempting to circumvent the mask rule by falsifying a disability or health condition may be denied future travel.
Delta is the first carrier to implement such predeparture clearances, and whether or not other airlines follow suit remains to be seen. On May 4, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to require all passengers to wear a face mask over their nose and mouth. Within days, Delta, United, American, and Southwest had all implemented similar rules, reports AFAR’s Michelle Baran. The move followed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance for wearing face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.