New York-based JetBlue will require all customers to wear face coverings during travel starting on May 4, becoming the first U.S. major airline to institute such a mandate. The company said it has modeled its policy on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines indicating everyone should wear a face-covering in public to help slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The airline had already required all crewmembers to wear face coverings while working.
“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those around you,” said JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty. “This is the new flying etiquette. Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes, but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others. We are also asking our customers to follow these CDC guidelines in the airport as well.”
Since late March, JetBlue has limited the number of seats available for sale on most flights, allowing the airline to provide additional space between individuals not traveling together. Before each flight, JetBlue reviews seat assignments to ensure as much personal space as possible, it said. It has also blocked access to rows near crewmember jump seats to create buffer zones for added crewmember and customer safety.
Speaking during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, International Air Transport Association director general Alexandre de Juniac reported that his group has begun work on a plan with an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) task force on a uniform standard for hygiene in aircraft cabins.
“One of the first priorities we will put on the table is to design and implement common health, safety, and sanitary control measures for passengers,” said de Juniac. “We have something ready and we will discuss it in this format. We will also approach several governments with this proposal to see how they consider implementing a single system, which is absolutely [necessary] for the restart of our industry.”
JetBlue’s move follows a Canadian federal requirement for all airline passengers to wear face coverings starting on April 20. In the Middle East, Dubai’s Emirates became one of the earliest to institute face-covering requirements and some of the most stringent health measures for passengers and crew. On April 15, the airline said it tested on-site all passengers for Covid-19 on a flight to Tunisia before departing Dubai and plans to increase capacity for testing before other flights. As of April 21 the airline began requiring all cabin crew, boarding agents, and ground staff in direct contact with passengers to don personal protective equipment (PPE), including a protective disposable gown over their uniforms and a safety visor, in addition to masks and gloves.