In soccer, a misbehaving player will receive verbal warnings from referees, and if the bad conduct continues, he or she will be handed a yellow card, which means “this is your final warning.” One more misstep after that, and the miscreant gets a red card and is ejected from the match.
Starting early in July, Alaska Airlines will borrow that soccer system for flight attendants to use in enforcing the airline’s in-flight face mask policy.
Several weeks ago, all major airlines started asking customers to keep their faces covered throughout the flight except when they are eating or drinking, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But reports, photos and videos soon circulated on social media about passengers who continued to go maskless. So in mid-June, the airlines all cracked down, and warned travelers that refusal to wear a mask could leave them grounded.
This week, Alaska Airlines introduced a new wrinkle in its in-flight mask enforcement – the yellow card.
The airline said that while its passengers “overwhelmingly” sympathize with the mask rule, its flight crews continue to encounter “moments when some travelers disregard or disobey our mask requirement. It creates tension and anxiety for many of our passengers who do have their face coverings on. So a change is needed,” the airline said.
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Under the new system, any passenger who “repeatedly refuses” to keep a mask on will be handed a yellow card by a flight attendant. “With that warning … the guest’s travel with us will be reviewed and could be suspended for a period,” Alaska said.
The airline acknowledged that there are exceptions to the mask rule, such as for small children, persons with medical issues involving their ability to breathe, and so on. Alaska offers a free mask to anyone who doesn’t bring one, and starting in July, it will also provide individual hand sanitizer wipes on board.
Other airlines have also threatened to ban customers who refuse to mask up while on the aircraft, and that has led to some unpleasant confrontations. The U.S. government could give the airlines an assist by making it a federal rule that passengers must wear masks, but so far it has shown no inclination to do so.
Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s senior travel correspondent. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t miss a shred of important travel news by signing up for his FREE weekly email updates!
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