Airlines may ban passengers from future flights for not wearing face masks

Passengers must wear a mask at all times on American, Delta, Southwest and other major airlines.

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Ignoring face mask rules on a plane could get you banned from future flights.

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A group of US airlines, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, will enforce stricter face mask policies with the aim of keeping passengers and employees safe amid the coronavirus pandemic

The stricter policies require almost all passengers to wear face masks for the duration of the flight. Passengers who ignore the face covering rule can be banned by the airline from future flights, according to a release from industry trade group Airlines for America.

"US airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights," said Airlines for America CEO Nicholas E. Calio. "Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules." 

Each airline can decide its own consequence, including "suspension of flying privileges on that airline" for passengers who choose to not adhere to face mask requirements.

American Airlines is already enforcing its face requirements at the gate by denying boarding to customers who don't wear a face covering. The airline shared the updated guidelines with passengers on Monday.

"American already enforces this policy at the gate and will deny boarding to customers who don't comply," said American Airlines in a release. "American now may also deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering."

Delta also released a statement to passengers on Tuesday about the new policy. 

"We take our mask requirement just as seriously. That's why customers are not allowed to board a Delta aircraft without wearing a mask and must follow crew member instructions to properly wear a mask in flight," said Delta airlines in a release. "Those who choose not to comply with this or other safety requirements risk future flight privileges with Delta."

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United Airlines said in a release on Monday that the only exceptions to this policy are individuals who have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering, people who can't put on a mask by themselves and small children. All other passengers must wear a mask for the duration of the flight. 

The policy doesn't apply when passengers are eating or drinking, although many airlines have reduced food accommodations since the beginning of the pandemic in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. 

The policy follows the somber milestone of the US reaching 2 million coronavirus cases. As many areas around the country begin to reopen, masks are one tool being used to keep people safe. The CDC recommends everyones wear a face covering when in public to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Watch this: Vaccines, antibody tests, treatments: The science of ending the pandemic