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Delta Air Lines rolls out stricter mask enforcement

Travelers check in through plexiglass dividers at Delta at Hartsfield-Jackson. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Travelers check in through plexiglass dividers at Delta at Hartsfield-Jackson. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Those who can't wear masks will be encouraged not to fly

Delta Air Lines is rolling out stricter requirements for passengers to wear masks starting Monday.

The Atlanta-based airline has allowed an exemption to its mask requirement for people unable to keep a face covering in place due to an underlying medical condition.

However, now the airline is cracking down on those exemptions and encouraging people who can’t wear a mask due to health conditions to not fly.

The move comes as more cities, states and businesses require people to wear face coverings when in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Brian Kemp has encouraged Georgians to wear them but is suing Atlanta to stop Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ mask requirement, which Kemp says is unenforceable. About a dozen other cities in Georgia have mandated mask use.

Other airlines have also rolled out mask requirements. But Delta now says that customers with health conditions or disabilities that “explicitly prevent the wearing of a face covering or mask are strongly encouraged to reconsider travel and should be prepared to complete a ‘Clearance-to-Fly’ process” at the airport before they depart.

Those who qualify for such exemptions should get to the airport early to complete the process at check in, according to the airline, which says the process “can take over one hour.” It involves a phone consultation with Delta’s medical support contractor STAT-MD, facilitated by Delta staff at the airport as a private call conducted out of earshot of others, according to the company.

“Any false claims of a disability or health condition to obtain an exemption from wearing a mask or face covering may result in the suspension of travel privileges on any Delta flight for the duration of the mask/face covering requirement,” Delta says on its website.

Delta requires masks at check-in, in gate areas, on jet bridges and on board its planes throughout the flight except during meal service, according to its website. The airline has said it already banned some passengers who refused to wear masks on flights.

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