Delta Air Lines distributing masks to passengers, employees

Carriers boosting safety measures to combat coronavirus
FILE: Delta currently employs 33,000 Georgians, making it the largest private employer in the state. (PHOTO: Handout)

FILE: Delta currently employs 33,000 Georgians, making it the largest private employer in the state. (PHOTO: Handout)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include JetBlue’s decision requiring passengers to wear masks beginning May 4.

Delta Air Lines began offering masks to passengers and requiring many employees to wear masks on Tuesday as carriers expand safety measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff must wear masks or face coverings if they come within six feet of customers or other employees, the Atlanta-based airline said in a memo flight attendants, pilots, airport customer service, cargo and maintenance employees.

Delta added that is is “strongly encouraging” customers to wear masks. It will offer them for free at ticket counters, gates and on flights.

Other airlines have made similar moves after the coronavirus triggered a plunge in air travel.

But Delta hasn't gone as far as JetBlue, which said Monday it will require all passengers to wear a face covering as of May 4. JetBlue customers will have to cover their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning. JetBlue said small children who are not able to maintain a face covering would be exempt.

United Airlines started requiring flight attendants to wear masks last Friday, and Frontier Airlines required crews to wear masks starting April 13. American Airlines announced Monday it will require flight attendants to wear masks and offer masks and sanitizing wipes or gels to customers.

Delta said its requirement aligns with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will be in effect through June 30, when it will be reevaluated.
The airline previously made masks available to employees.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents flight attendants at United and other carriers, last week called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to mandate masks for airline employees and passengers. The union also reiterated a call for a suspension of leisure travel until the coronavirus is contained.