American Airlines updates mask policy

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An American Airlines jet at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. - MAX FAULKNER/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS

American Airlines announced this week that face coverings with exhaust valves or vents would no longer be allowed when boarding the carrier’s flights, effective Wednesday.

The airline consulted with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that the face coverings with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled through holes in the material.

The exhaled air contains respiratory droplets that can spread the coronavirus.

“Wearing a face covering is a responsibility we all share,” American Chief Customer Officer Alison Taylor said. “An effective covering, worn properly, is one of the best ways we can control the spread of COVID-19 to protect our team members and customers.

“Since American began requiring face coverings in early May, the vast majority of customers have welcomed our continuing efforts to strengthen the policy based on the CDC’s guidance,” Taylor said.

Based on the updated CDC guidance, the airline is only allowing well-secured facial coverings made of a material that prevents the release of respiratory droplets from a person's nose or mouth.

As for what travelers aren’t allowed to wear while traveling with American, face coverings with exhaust valves, those made with materials such as mesh or lace, that do not cover the nose and mouth or face shields without the addition of a mask are not permitted.

The only exemption is children under the age of 2, and customers without a facial covering will be offered a mask at the airport. Travelers unwilling to comply with the carrier’s mask policy during their journey will be denied boarding or barred from future travel.

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced it would extend its offer to waive change fees for new travel through Dec. 31 for flyers who purchase tickets by Sept. 30.

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