Delta CEO: Federal mask mandate will help with compliance on planes

09/04/2020 -Atlanta, Georgia - Delta Air Lines customers wear masks as they wait to be served at the ticker counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
09/04/2020 -Atlanta, Georgia - Delta Air Lines customers wear masks as they wait to be served at the ticker counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

But CEO says vaccine requirement for domestic travel would be impractical

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said a new federal mask mandate for air travel should help significantly with passenger compliance.

In a Bloomberg Live event this week, Bastian said a federal mask mandate is “one of the things that I’ve been seeking for the last year.”

Delta and other airlines already require masks on planes and have been penalizing violators by putting them on their no-fly lists.

With the mandate signed by President Joe Biden last week, the airline’s employees will now be “in a position that they’re backed up by the federal authorities,” Bastian said.

“Having the federal government’s guidance and support on that does wonders and helps compliance at a much higher level,” he said.

Bastian also welcomed new U.S. COVID-19 testing requirements for international travel, which took effect this week. “By putting those policies in place, we at least now have a framework to give people confidence that the borders can be reopened safely,” he said.

Delta is working on a technology platform for travelers to easily show their vaccination records, should that become required.

Biden’s executive order also directed the U.S. Transportation Secretary to consider additional public health measures for domestic travel.

When asked whether vaccines should be required for flights within the United States, Bastian said: “I don’t think for domestic travel it’s practical” to require vaccines.

He said Delta alone is carrying more than a million passengers a week. But, he added, “For international, I think it’s probably going to be required by the international authorities in terms of opening up borders.”

There are reports this week that the Biden administration is looking into requiring COVID-19 testing for domestic flights.

Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the industry group U.S. Travel Association, said domestic flight testing is “an extremely problematic proposition.” She said it would be “very difficult to implement and enforce,” because of the cost and limited availability of testing.

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