All major U.S. airlines on Saturday joined JetBlue in requiring passengers to wear face masks, and most are also mandating that flight attendants and other employees wear masks to slow the spread of coronavirus.
JetBlue, United and Delta will begin the rule May 4. South-West, Alaska and American are requiring masks beginning from May 11.
Most of the airlines that have announced the mask rules have cited the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s findings that the use of cloth masks or face coverings slows the spread of the virus.
The Senior Vice President of customer experience at American Airlines, Kurt Stache, said requiring a face covering was one more the people on board could be protected.
The nation’s largest flight attendants’ union, representing more than 50,000 members on 20 airlines, has been pushing carriers to make masks mandatory for passengers and crew members, and other employees who deal directly with the public.
According to the President of the Association of Flight Attendants, Sara Nelson, the association is happy to see airlines taking action to require masks or face coverings for passengers, crew and other front-line employees.
However, any passengers who left his or her face mask at home, the airport, United, American, South-West and Delta said they would make face masks available free of charge to them.
Several airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta and Spirit, are also keeping the middle seats in the cabin empty.
According to Airlines for America, the trade group for the country’s carriers, since mid-March, demand for air travel in the U.S. has fallen 96 per cent, leaving domestic flights carrying an average of only 15 to 20 passengers.
The decline had, however, struck a severe financial blow to the nation’s airlines that were enjoying record or near-record profits only a few months ago.
Earlier, American Airlines reported that it lost $2.2 billion in the first three months of the year, with United reporting a $1.7 billion drop in revenue and Delta reporting a loss of $534 million in the same period.
However, to continue to operate, most of the major carriers had applied for and received grants and loans from Federal CARES Act or had raised capital through loans or other credit mechanisms.
Airlines that accept CARES Act funding are required to continue to provide minimum service to the same destinations before the crisis, but already several airlines have asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for exemptions to that rule.
The airlines taking federal money also agreed not make involuntary furloughs or reduce hourly pay. United is reducing the number of hours employees work each week.
However, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg, which said full-time weekly schedules would shrink to 30 hours from 40, beginning from May 24.
Delta and JetBlue also plan to reduce worker schedules. Workers unions contend that the reduction in hours violates the CARES Act rules.
There are signs that passenger demand is inching up. The Transportation Security Administration reported that the number of passengers screened at U.S. airports earlier, was only about 5 or 6 per cent of same totals in 2019.
Meanwhile, the daily totals were increasing, from about 111,000 on Tuesday, up to about 120,000 on Wednesday and nearly 155,000 on Thursday. (dpa/NAN)
– May 2, 2020 @ 14:45 GMT |