Delta Air Lines passengers who refuse to wear masks will be required to complete a screening at the airport before boarding their plane, the carrier said.
The rule, which goes into effect Monday, appears to serve as the strictest enforcement mechanism yet for the airline’s requirement on face coverings, which had gone loosely enforced for months by Delta and many other companies.
Though most of the major U.S. carriers had required all passengers to cover their faces as early as May, a slew of incidents since then have indicated that rules were being ignored. Delta and two other airlines admitted their flight attendants had been told not to enforce the policy.
The company’s new screenings, which can take up to an hour, are aimed specifically at all those passengers who say they must travel but cannot cover their faces because of health conditions.
But the screenings are nonetheless a second resort: All customers are encouraged to wear a mask on board, Delta said, or to “reconsider travel” if a health condition gets in the way.
Passengers who do not apply for the screening will be required to cover their faces at every “touchpoint” at the airport, from check-in desks to jet bridges. The only exception made is during meals.
“Medical research tells us that wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate,” a spokesperson for the airline said in a statement to The Washington Post.
On its website, Delta warned that anyone who falsely claims a disability or health condition during the screening may be banned from flights until the airline’s mask requirement is lifted.
Last month, an industry trade group said U.S. airlines would begin asking travelers to submit to coronavirus health questionnaires at check-in.
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The Washington Post’s Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.