Southwest, American tighten mask rules; Delta widens testing

Southwest and American say they won't allow health waivers to their face-mask rule

“We’re simply seeing too many exceptions to the (mask) policy, it has put our flight crews in a really tough spot and also made our customers pretty uncomfortable," Southwest Airlines President Tom Nealon said Thursday.

Delta said it will expand coronavirus testing at its hub airports and provide at-home tests for employees in Florida and Texas — states that have seen a surge of virus infections and deaths in recent weeks. Reservations agents who don't work at hubs will also get at-home tests, the airline said.

Delta has been testing employees at its Atlanta headquarters and so-called hub airports and expects to have tested all U.S. employees within the next four weeks.

This week, Delta began requiring passengers who claimed a medical exception to the face-mask rule to go through new screening — a phone call with a staffer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Customers and team members have been clear that they feel more safe when everyone is wearing a face covering," said Alison Taylor, American's chief customer officer.

Both airlines said passengers will still be allowed to remove the mask to eat or drink. Southwest said it expects passengers to put their face covering back on as soon as possible.

Some people have complained that fellow passengers flout the rules and airlines don’t enforce them.

Major U.S. airlines have extended their face-mask rules to ticket counters, baggage claim and other areas inside airports, and they threaten to ban violators from future flights. Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, said his company has taken action against more than 100 passengers.

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David Koenig can be reached at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter