Most US airlines will require passengers to wear face masks as they guard against coronavirus

Key Points
  • Most U.S. carriers will require passengers wear masks or face coverings on flights.
  • JetBlue took a similar step earlier this week, while American, Delta, United and others had made them mandatory for flight attendants.
  • The changes come as the coronavirus pandemic pushes travel demand down to the lowest levels in decades.
Passengers are seen wearing protective masks and gloves at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, United States on March 29, 2020.
Eva Marie Uzcategui | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Major U.S. airlines on Thursday said they will require travelers to wear face masks on board their planes as carriers take steps to try to protect the health of passengers and crew.

Delta's policy requires travelers to wear a mask or other face covering in the check-in area, premium lounges, boarding gate areas and on board for the whole flight, except during meals. The airline is also urging travelers to wear them in security lines and in restrooms. The policy takes effect Monday.

United will also start requiring masks for passengers Monday. American's policy goes into effect May 11. Frontier Airlines issued a similar requirement that goes into effect May 8. JetBlue Airways earlier this week became the first major U.S. airline to mandate masks for travelers.

Could be six months to a year until people are flying again: Marc Lasry
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"We want our passengers to feel comfortable when flying with us by protecting themselves and their fellow travelers as we all navigate the Covid-19 pandemic," Barry Biffle, Frontier's CEO said in a release. "This new measure is aligned with CDC recommendations and those of many municipalities within the U.S. that include wearing a face covering when out in public."

Airlines are also requiring that flight attendants wear masks and have said they will make masks available for travelers. American said it also plans to distribute sanitizing wipes for travelers starting next month.

Airlines are grappling with health precautions on board in the coronavirus era and labor unions have urged more stringent requirements from federal regulators. The U.S. government has recommended that air travelers wear face masks but hasn't required them. In addition to implementing the new face covering requirements for passengers and crew members, airlines are stepping up cleaning and disinfecting of cabins.