Alaska Airlines announced today that passengers who refuse to wear masks or face coverings on board during this time of heightened COVID-19 concerns might put future travel plans at risk.
The carrier has empowered flight attendants to issue yellow cards or a final warning to guests who repeatedly refuse to wear a mask or face covering. The carrier has said it will review travel plans and could suspend travel for a period for those who are issued yellow cards.
Alaska Airlines spokesman Daniel Chun said the change is in keeping with other major U.S. airlines that have announced increased enforcement of face coverings and will be particularly important to Hawaii as the state works to safely reopen tourism to out-of-state passengers.
“Safety has always been our highest held value and we take the use of masks and face coverings very seriously. Starting in early July, our flight attendants will be empowered to issue a warning to any guest who repeatedly refuses to wear a mask on board our aircraft,” Chun said. “This is particularly important as we work towards the safe reopening of out of state travel to Hawaii and it’s a part of our Next-Level Care commitment to keeping our guests healthy and safe throughout their travel journey.”
A few exceptions to Alaska’s mask policy are children under age 2; anyone with a medical issue that creates trouble breathing; anyone who cannot remove a mask without assistance; or anyone with a disability that prevents wearing a mask. Guests, who are in their seats, may temporarily adjusts masks to eat or drink.
On June 15, Airlines for America (A4A) announced its members had pledged to “vigorously enforce” face covering policies, and would put “rigor around rules requiring passengers and customer-facing employees to wear facial coverings over their nose and mouth.”
A4A members include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and UPS. Air Canada is an associate member.
“U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees.”
Gov. David Ige announced last week that starting Aug. 1 passengers with approved negative COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of their trip to Hawaii may bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for out-of state passengers. The out-of-state quarantine runs through July 31 and is expected to be extended.
The trans-Pacific quarantine, which was implemented March 26, along with fear of COVID-19 has dramatically reduced tourism to Hawaii. In June 2019, an average of 35,000 passengers, most of them visitors, arrived in Hawaii daily.
In comparison, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported today that 1,750 passengers came into Hawaii on Monday and 479 of them were visitors.
Also arriving on the 17 flights that came into Hawaii on Monday were 503 residents and 58 people who planned to relocate to Hawaii. There were 241 airline crew members and 124 transit passengers who didn’t plan to leave the airport. There also were 234 military members and 111 passengers that were exempt from the quarantine.
Most of the visitors, some 441, went to Oahu with another four heading to Kona and another 106 Maui bound.
As many as 402 Oahu bound visitors answered a question about the purpose of their trip on the state’s travel declaration form. Some 28% or 112 said they were coming to Hawaii to vacation even though the state is still closed to out-of-state tourism unless visitors have completed a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine.
About 5% said they were coming to Hawaii on business, 4% said they were relocating and another 67% said they were coming to visit friends and family. The percentages top 100% because visitors can give more than one reason.