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Southwest Will Not Deny Boarding To Passengers Without Face Masks

Passengers Without Face Masks
Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Will Not Deny Boarding To Passengers Without Face Masks

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that American, Delta, and United told employees not to force passengers to comply with their new face mask requirements.  Instead, the airlines instructed employees to encourage passengers to wear the mask.

Now CNN is reporting that a Southwest Airlines memo told employees not to deny passengers boarding for not wearing a face mask.  The memo tells employees to approach the passenger with “empathy and respect.”  The airline continues, “You are expected to inform Customers of our face covering requirement but are not expected to be the enforcers — ask the Customer to comply with wearing a face covering if they are able.”  The policy says that passengers will merely be asked to wear a mask.

This is in contrast from American, Delta, and United, who told employees that passengers may be denied boarding without a mask.  However, the airlines told employees to be more lenient once inside the aircraft.  JetBlue went even further than the big three saying that passengers who fail to comply with the face mask requirement will be denied boarding.

Clearly, it appears as though airlines are trying to avoid flight disruptions for enforcing the measure.  It seems to me that airlines don’t want to force flight attendants to become enforcers because it may lead to anger from the passenger.  It’s not exactly unheard of for people to get belligerent on planes.

Of course, it shouldn’t take force for people to follow this requirement.  The most recent science tells us that there is a high population of asymptomatic carriers.  Face masks help prevent those asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus.  Although the risk of catching coronavirus on a plane is low, face masks likely further limit the spread.  Wearing a mask is an easy thing to do, and you can help people in the process of doing it.

Bottom Line

During this time, face masks can help slow the spread of the virus.  Many airlines around the world announced policies to require face masks, and for logical reasons.  Unlike social distancing on planes — which is much more about public perception in my view — masks have a tangible impact.

Though it looks like this isn’t going to be something enforced (likely to avoid conflict), just wear the mask.  It doesn’t make you weak to wear a mask.  You aren’t giving into some sort of control by wearing a mask.  What you’re doing is being considerate for those around you.  And right now the world needs a little more of that.

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