Southwest and American Airlines Announce New Face Covering Requirements, Enforcement Plans

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Southwest Airlines  (LUV) - Get Report and American Airlines  (AAL) - Get Report now have the strictest mask policies for flying. While all major airlines require masks, most make exceptions for people with disabilities or medical conditions. However, Southwest and American say those with disabilities will still need to wear a mask

Only children under 2 are exempt.

“If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering or mask for any reason, Southwest regrets that we will be unable to transport the individual," said Southwest Airlines in a statement.

“Those unwilling to comply with this face covering requirement at any time during their journey with American may be barred from future travel for the duration of this face covering requirement," said American Airlines.

Both carriers make exceptions for eating and drinking.

“…We acknowledge there may be times when a Customer needs to remove their face covering briefly, for example: to eat, drink, or take medicine. However, we expect those instances to be very brief…" said Southwest.

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines require medical conditions to be cleared before flying.

Southwest’s policy goes into effect July 27 and American Airlines’ on July 29.

Both carriers reported second-quarter 2020 financial results on Thursday, July 23. American Airlines reported second-quarter pretax loss of $2.7 billion.

“This was one of the most challenging quarters in American’s history,” said American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. “COVID-19 and the resulting shutdown of the U.S. economy have caused severe disruptions to global demand for air travel.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said, "As our Nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for air travel remains weak, which was the driver of our second quarter net loss of approximately $1.5 billion, excluding special items.”

“We expect air travel demand to remain depressed until a vaccine or therapeutics are available to combat the infection and spread of COVID-19,” he added.

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