Starting Friday, all Alaska Airlines passengers age 2 and older will be required to wear a cloth mask or face covering over their nose and mouth as a safeguard against spreading the coronavirus — with no exceptions.
Any passenger unwilling or unable to wear a mask for any reason while at the airport will not be permitted to board a flight, the Seattle-based airline said Wednesday. A passenger who refuses to wear a mask after boarding will be suspended from future travel.
“Since Alaska’s mask enforcement policy was enacted in May, the overwhelming majority of guests have respected the requirement — and many guests have raised concerns about the few who do not,” the company said.
Last month, Alaska tried a soccer-style warning rather than hard enforcement of the mask policy.
Alaska flight attendants began issuing recalcitrant passengers a “yellow card,” with a notice that they would be banned from future travel if they flew a second time without a face covering.
But other airlines — especially Delta, Alaska’s big rival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — earned kudos from passengers with a tougher, no-exceptions approach.
With some travelers booking flights based on the perceived relative safety of the airline and the strength of its protective measures against the coronavirus, Alaska has followed suit.
“Our tougher policy shows how important this issue is to us and our guests,” said Max Tidwell, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of safety and security. “If you don’t wear a mask, you won’t be flying with us.”
Alaska has also extended its policy of blocking middle seats, except for families traveling together, to allow for some degree of physical distancing on flights through Oct. 31.
This policy, too, has not been without mishaps.
Scott Chelgren, who flew with his wife on a flight from Boston to Seattle in early July, was assured by reservation agents that the middle seat between them would be empty, only to find a passenger assigned to sit between them after boarding.
An Alaska representative later apologized to the couple and in an email admitted that the airline had failed to honor its promise.