IATA reminds airline travelers to wear masks or face penalties

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Masked passengers fill a Southwest Airlines flight from Burbank, California, to Las Vegas on June 3, 2020, with middle seats left open. - Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times/TNS

To combat the spread of coronavirus and avoid onboard incidents, the International Air Transport Association is appealing to travelers to wear face coverings throughout their journey.

While there is no federal order mandating masks on flights, the International Civil Aviation Organization listed wearing facial coverings as a key recommendation and most airlines have implemented changes to enforce the rules.

In addition to keeping all passengers and crew safe during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, travelers refusing to wear masks can sometimes cause violent onboard incidents that result in costly and inconvenient diversions or emergency landings.

“This is a call for common sense and taking responsibility,” IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said. “The vast majority of travelers understand the importance of face covering both for themselves as well as for their fellow passengers, and airlines appreciate this collective effort.”

“But a small minority create problems. Safety is at the core of aviation, and compliance with crew safety instructions is the law,” de Juniac continued. “Failure to comply can jeopardize a flight’s safety, disrupt the travel experience of other passengers and impact the work environment for crew.”

When travelers purchase a ticket for a flight, they agree to the airline’s terms and Conditions of Carriage, including the carrier’s right to refuse service to passengers who violate mandatory facial covering protocols.

Failure to comply with mask guidelines could result in the passenger being offloaded from their flight, restrictions on future journeys or penalties under federal laws.

“This is not just about protecting yourself,” IATA medical adviser Dr. David Powell said. “It’s about protecting everyone else on the flight.”

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