(CNN) — Delta Air Lines will now require medical screenings for passengers who can’t wear face masks due to health reasons — and asks that they reconsider flying altogether as the coronavirus pandemic rages.
The strengthened policy adds another layer of protection for passengers who are already mostly required to wear masks while on flights, during boarding and in Delta waiting areas. If they don’t comply, they face being banned from future flights.
“We encourage customers who are prevented from wearing a mask due to a health condition to reconsider travel,” the statement said. “If they decide to travel, they will be welcome to fly upon completing a virtual consultation prior to departure at the airport to ensure everyone’s safety, because nothing is more important.”
The virtual consultation will be conducted over the phone privately by STAT-MD, which “provides inflight emergency consultation as well as fitness-to-fly ground screening,” according to that company’s website. Delta will use the outcome of the screening to determine whether the passenger can fly maskless.
In June, Delta said passengers who do not comply with the mask or other safety requirements “risk future flight privileges with Delta.”
Delta is one of manyUSairlines that has recently sought to strengthen the use of masks while flying. United Airlines announced in June that those who refuse a mask could be put on a restricted travel list. And American Airlines has asked all passengers — with the exception of children and those with disabilities or medical reasons that prevent them from wearing masks — to use face coverings while on the plane.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees last month that the airline had already “banned some passengers from future travel on Delta for refusing to wear masks on board.”
Despite the rules put out by the airlines, Bastian has called for more regulations from the federal government to promote mask wearing. Bastian told CNN’s Poppy Harlow for Boss Files that he thinks the government should make it a mandate.
“We’ve had those discussions with the White House,” he said.
“I feel strongly about it,” Bastian added. “But I’m not sure some of my peers and other airlines feel the same way. So as a practical matter, I’m not sure it’s gonna happen.”
The White House would not comment on the matter at the time.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said at a June 3 event hosted by Politico that she opposed a federal requirement on masks. She said the issue should be decided on by airlines and unionized frontline workers, who are on the front lines of the issue and face the most risk if coronavirus spreads on planes.
“When the federal government gets involved, we tend to be much more heavy handed, we tend to be inflexible, and once we put a rule in place, it takes a long time to remove that rule if conditions change,” Chao explained.