Delta has banned more than 100 passengers for not wearing a mask

Jul 23, 2020

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If you plan to fly during the pandemic, you better pack your mask.

Every major U.S. airline now has a face-covering requirement, and many European airlines do as well. And some global hotel chains like Marriott and Hyatt are joining the bandwagon as well.

But just because you have to wear a mask doesn’t mean that everyone will comply with the rule. Plus, some will — and have — certainly claimed exceptions to the mask-wearing policy, even if they don’t truly qualify for one.

Enforcing the mask requirement is hard. Much of the onus falls on flight attendants, who are otherwise busy with their typical inflight responsibilities.

As we’ve seen with the explosive growth of emotional support animals, it’s hard for an airline to judge what’s legitimate and what’s not.

That’s why airlines have doubled down on abusers of the mask policy. They’ve threatened to ban passengers who don’t follow the rules. But just how much are airlines actually booting customers from flights?

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Delta’s banned over 100 passengers

Delta’s been one of the most proactive about inflight safety and passenger well-being. The Atlanta-based carrier is capping the capacity of all its flights, cleaning planes at each turn and modifying inflight service protocols.

Additionally, the airline requires passengers to wear masks or appropriate face coverings throughout the end-to-end travel journey. This includes check-in, SkyClubs and baggage claim, in addition to the flight itself.

On Monday, 20 July, Delta even introduced a new process for those who cannot wear a mask. First, the airline is clear — if you can’t wear a mask, you should reconsider travel. But if you need to board a flight, you’ll be subject to a new “Clearance-to-Fly” screening before your flight.

These virtual screenings are done either at check-in or the gate. They’re facilitated by Delta’s medical professionals at StatMD at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. If those medical professionals conclude you don’t have a valid health reason to not wear a mask, you’ll be denied boarding. If they conclude you do have a valid reason, then you can fly sans a face covering.

But even with the new “Clearance-to-Fly” program, some customers still don’t follow the rules. And Delta’s been clear there, too: if you don’t wear a mask, you face a flight ban.

Delta flight attendant during the pandemic (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, on NBC News’ Today show, Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said that “if you board the plane and insist that you not wear a mask, we’ll insist that you don’t fly Delta into the future. We already have over 100 people that we’ve put on this list”.

This is the first indication we’ve seen from any U.S. airline on how many people have been barred from flying due to failure to comply with the requirement.

Related: No mask? On Delta, you’ll now need a note from the airline’s doctor

But is 100 passengers actually a lot?

Delta is definitely sticking to its word by banning passengers who refuse to wear masks. But is 100 actually a lot?

Well, the carrier’s mask policy has been in place since 4 May. Though we don’t yet have exact passenger traffic numbers for 2020, we can make some general inferences.

In the June quarter, Delta stated that the number of enplaned passengers was down 93% year-over-year. Based on Delta’s traffic reports from last year, the carrier carried roughly 54 million passengers during the second quarter of 2019.

That translates to about 3.8 million passengers transported from April to June of 2020.

Now, of course, Delta’s mask policy was only in effect beginning in May — in the middle of the second quarter. With a rough estimation, Delta carried about 1 million passengers per month in the second quarter. Applying similar logic to the 79-day period from May 4 through July 22, we can very roughly infer that Delta carried somewhere around 2.6 million passengers.

Delta jets at JFK (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Banning over 100 passengers during the entire duration of the mask requirement may sound like a lot. But it’s really somewhere around 0.004% — which isn’t all that much.

Of course, it could be that Delta’s just been transporting a bunch of compliant passengers. But it’s also possible that these numbers are reinforcing the idea that enforcing the mask policy is actually really hard.

Related: Will a face mask keep you safe from viruses on a plane?

What about American and United?

Both American and United also have similar mask policies in place. Both carriers have also publicly stated that they’d ban any non-compliant passengers.

We reached out to both carriers to ask about how many passengers they’ve banned for failing to wear a mask. We haven’t yet heard back from them, and will update the story if we do.

Bottom line

Wearing a mask isn’t just about your safety and the safety of those around you.

When flying, it’s now a requirement. And just like you can be banned for not following a crewmember’s instructions, you can be barred for not wearing a mask.

Delta’s banned over 100 passengers so far for noncompliance. Sure they’re keeping their word, but relative to how many passengers they’ve transported since the requirement has been in place, it’s not all that many people – hopefully, an indication of compliance and not challenges with enforcement.

Featured photo courtesy of Delta

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