Delta Air Lines on Monday said it will now require a virtual medical evaluation from passengers if they have a health condition that prevents them from wearing a face mask.
And if it isn’t possible, the carrier is asking passengers to reconsider traveling at all.
“We encourage customers who are prevented from wearing a mask due to a health condition to reconsider travel,” Delta said in a statement. “If they decide to travel, they will be welcome to fly upon completing a virtual consultation prior to departure at the airport to ensure everyone’s safety, because nothing is more important.”
This virtual consultation will be conducted over the phone privately by STAT-MD, a company that “provides inflight emergency consultation as well as fitness-to-fly ground screening,” according to that company’s website. Delta will then assess the results and determine whether a passenger can fly without a mask.
The idea of wearing face masks has been a hotly contested issue all over the country, but with the close proximity of people on airlines, it has been a huge problem in aviation. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has been a proponent of having the federal government step in and mandate face masks, but the Trump administration has so far declined.
“We’ve had those discussions with the White House,” Bastian said. “I feel strongly about it. But I’m not sure some of my peers and other airlines feel the same way. So as a practical matter, I’m not sure it’s gonna happen.”
Currently, most airlines require passengers to wear masks while at the gate, during the boarding process and during flight under threat of being banned from future flights.
Bastian said in a memo to employees last month that the airline had already “banned some passengers from future travel on Delta for refusing to wear masks on board.”
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