Some airlines are changing their policies on what constitutes an acceptable face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its flights.
Finland’s largest airline, Finnair, recently announced that passengers will no longer be allowed to wear fabric masks on flights. Because “fabric masks are slightly less efficient at protecting people from infection than surgical masks,” the airline now only accepts “surgical masks, FFP2 or FFP3 respirator masks without a valve, or other valve-free masks with the same standard (N95).”
The Finnish air carrier isn’t alone in making that distinction. Air France prohibits passengers from wearing a cloth mask or one with an exhaust valve; Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the German airline more commonly known as Lufthansa, announced that cloth and face masks, masks with valves, as well as scarves and handkerchiefs are not permitted either on board or in the lounges.
In the U.S., air carriers typically allow passengers to wear cloth face masks — but not face coverings like gaiters and bandanas. Read on to learn what some domestic airlines now prohibit passengers from wearing to comply with the TSA mask mandate.
Domestic Airline Policies
American allows passengers to wear “a mask or 2-layered secured cloth that completely covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly to the sides of your face and under your chin.” That said, the airline prohibits passengers from wearing a face shield with no mask, as well as balaclavas, bandanas, face covers with exhaust valves or vents, face covers made of mesh or lace, gaiters, scarves, and ski masks.
Delta allows passengers to wear “cloth masks with tightly woven fabric and even fabric masks with a clear plastic window.” However, the airline prohibits any mask with an exhaust valve; masks with slits, punctures, or holes; and bandanas, scarves, ski masks, and balaclavas.
Frontier explains that passengers must wear a face covering that “fits snugly over your nose and mouth and is secured under the chin.” Passengers cannot wear open-chin triangle bandanas; face coverings with vents, valves, or mesh material; and face shields alone.
JetBlue allows passengers to wear a plastic face shield when it is worn in addition to a face mask — but not in place of one. The airline does not permit passengers to use personal face/body tents or pods, personal air purifiers/refreshers or ozone generators, or any masks connected to tubing or battery-operated filters.
Southwest explains that clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are allowed, as are medical masks and N95 respirators.
However, its extensive list of face coverings that are not allowed include masks not made of a solid piece of material, including those with slits, exhalation valves, or punctures. Passengers also cannot wear bandanas, scarves, ski masks, or balaclavas as a face cover. They also cannot simply pull a shirt or sweater collar up over their mouth and nose.
Spirit explains that passengers must wear a face covering with at least two layers of fabric that fits snugly, covers the nose and mouth, and is secured under the chin. What Spirit does not allow passengers to wear are open-chin triangle bandanas, face coverings containing valves or mesh material, and face shields when worn alone.
United explains that passengers are required to wear a face mask — with no vents or openings — that fully covers their nose and mouth. United goes on to explain that a face shield alone does not count as a face covering and bandanas worn as a face covering are also not permitted.
Know Before You Go
Face masks have been required for travelers on planes most of this year. In the U.S., they will be required into early 2022.
The Transportation Security Administration’s mask mandate, based on CDC guidelines, was first issued in January. That mandate required travelers to wear face masks on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares, as well as while they are at transportation hubs, such as airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, and seaports.
That original mandate was scheduled to expire on May 11. In April, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the order was extended until September 13. The new extension will expire January 18, 2022.
Penalties for violating the mandate start at $250 and go up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.