US airlines mandate face masks, including American, Delta, United, Southwest

JetBlue was first, but now all the biggest US airlines are following suit. Here's what they're doing to protect passengers and crew from the coronavirus.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
4 min read

Airlines are taking a variety of precautions as the coronavirus pandemic continues.


You're not just imagining that the sky overhead is quieter. Empty airports, parked aircraft and sharply reduced flight schedules show just how severely the coronavirus pandemic has affected air travel in the United States. Passenger numbers from the Transportation Security Administration are even further proof. On April 28, the TSA screened just 110,913 people, a 95% decrease from the same day last year.

But as airplanes continue to fly across the country, airlines are changing the travel experience for the fewer people aboard. JetBlue last week was the first to announce mandatory mask use for both crew and passengers, with almost all of the major carriers soon following its lead. Some airlines are even providing them. And keep in mind that some airports, like San Francisco, require masks in the terminals. 

Watch this: What you need to know about cleaning and reusing a virus mask

All the airlines I contacted say they've instituted deeper aircraft cleaning procedures between flights, such as wiping tray tables and overhead bin handles and "fogging" cabins with disinfectant. They're also limiting upgrade options and are blocking some seats to keep passengers apart. Food and drink onboard, if you get it at all, is likely to be served in single-use containers, with bottled water largely the beverage of choice. Inflight magazines should be gone, too, and that hot-towel service? Don't even ask for it. 

Other precautions start at the airport, where frontline employees are wearing masks and some check-in kiosks are gone to give people more space. You're likely to scan your own boarding pass at the gate. And to further encourage social distancing, most airlines are boarding passengers in smaller groups, starting with those seated in the back. (Sorry, first-class flyers.)


  • Employees who can't maintain a six-foot social distance from others need to wear masks.
  • Passengers must wear masks beginning May 11.
  • Middle seats are blocked on aircraft that have them. For aircraft without middle seats, aisles seats will be blocked.
  • Onboard food and drink service will be limited and all airport lounges are closed, except one at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.





  • A spokeswoman said all employees regardless of role are required to wear masks.
  • Masks for passengers will be required at check-in, gate areas and during the flight beginning May 8. 
  • Every other row of seats will be blocked on all flights.


  • Cabin crew members are required to wear masks.
  • Passengers also are required to wear face masks, beginning at check-in. A spokesman said that a small number of masks will be available for passengers who don't bring their own.
  • The number of available seats on all flights will be limited.
  • There'll be fewer food and beverage options.


  • mask requirement for passengers will begin May 8. 
  • Disposable sanitizing wipes are available on board transpacific and intra-Hawaii flights.
  • Some airport lounges are closed.
  • A spokesman says the airline "will soon launch updated seat maps with seat blocks specifically designed to maintain social distancing onboard."


  • All in-flight snack and drink service is currently suspended.
  • Flight attendants are required to wear masks. 
  • A mask mandate for passengers will begin May 11. Masks will be available for people that don't bring them.
  • The airline will limit the number of passengers onboard each flight so that middle seats can remain unoccupied. (Remember that Southwest has an open seating policy.) People traveling together will be permitted to sit together. 


Sun Country

  • Customer-facing employees are required to wear masks. Passengers are "encouraged" to wear masks.
  • The alines says that "middle seats will only be filled when necessary to accommodate all booked passengers. Families who want to sit together can request middle seat assignments at the check-in counter or at the gate."
  • The airline has halted all inflight service.


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