Who is enforcing corporate mask policies?

Every company under the sun is releasing new safety standards. But many ring hollow.


June 8, 2020

You’ll probably hear endless reassurances in the coming weeks from airlines about their safety standards. Here’s one: As recommended by the WHO, all passengers are expected to wear masks.

But when it comes down to it, those policies don’t have teeth. Airlines are still boarding people without masks, according to The New York Times. One frequent flyer tweeted at Delta, “What’s the point in requiring if there is no follow through?”

It’s bringing up a strange tension: Airlines want to make travelers feel safe. But they’re worried about alienating non-mask-wearing customers who already bought tickets.

Not wearing a mask? JetBlue will kick you out

Language differs a bit depending on the airline: Southwest will still board customers who refuse to wear masks, while JetBlue says it definitely won’t. Others — like American or United — are hedging. In some cases, they say, they may deny boarding.

A United spokesperson said flight attendants will first pull customers aside to “further understand their concerns and discuss options” and that denying boarding was a “last resort.”

The dilemma goes beyond the airline biz

And the brunt of enforcing the rules often falls on the shoulders of low-level staff.

A Target worker told Vox last month that he wears a “Please maintain a 6-foot distance” pin on his shirt, but customers still go up and tap his shoulder.

Workers sometimes have to deal with customers who get heated, if not violent. Some organizations, like the Michigan Retailers Association, are planning de-escalation training to help employees handle these confrontations.

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