The New Flying Etiquette

Beginning May 4, all travelers who fly on JetBlue will be required to wear a face mask.

The airline announced Monday that in one week, it will be mandatory for all passengers to cover their mouths and noses upon boarding their flights to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. JetBlue crew members have already received the same mandate.

With the airlines new rule, JetBlue became the first major U.S. airline requiring passengers to wear a face covering during their travels. The covering will be required from check-in through the moment they step off the plane at their destination.

“This is the new flying etiquette,” JetBlue’s president and chief operating officer, Joanna Geraghty, said in a statement. “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.”

JetBlue is not standing alone in their requirement. It is becoming an industry standard, moving the requirement toward a more widespread use of masks.

This week American Airlines and Delta Air Lines  announced plans to require their flight crews to wear face coverings, while United and Frontier issued similar orders earlier this month. American and Delta have also said they will be encouraging passengers to wear masks by handing them out before flights.

However American Airlines pilots are hoping for more. They want a law that they say will protect crew and passengers as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.

The Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents American Airlines pilots, said it’s collaborating with other unions, such as the Association of Professional Flight Attendants which represents American’s flight attendants, to lobby Congress to take legislative action.

The APA wants mandatory personal protection equipment and priority testing for crew members, as well as a mandate that all passengers wear face masks when traveling. The APA also wants mandatory deep cleaning of aircraft and airports included, among other things.

“Your APA Government Affairs Committee is aggressively pursuing these initiatives on your behalf in Washington, D.C.,” the union said in a note to members this week.

Even though passenger volume is down 95 percent at TSA checkpoints, airlines are still flying hundreds of flights a day with load factors in the teens and below.

Airlines are deemed an essential business, and a condition of carriers receiving payroll grants from the U.S. government is they continue to serve all destinations they usually serve. American, like other carriers, is applying for some exemptions to that rule.

American Airlines is the largest airline at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

American spokesperson Matt Miller said the airline is following CDC guidance and purchasing masks for all frontline employees who want to wear them. American is currently in the process of distributing the masks and is encouraging employees to bring their own too, Miller said.

“Many of American’s team members have transformed our temporarily closed Admirals Club lounges into sewing groups to create masks for colleagues,” Miller said.

An APA spokesperson said even though American is supplying masks, the union thinks it should be an industry-wide practice that’s based in law.

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