Delta: For Face Mask Exemption Must Have Pre-Flight Medical Evaluation

Delta: For Face Mask Exemption Must Have Pre-Flight Medical Evaluation


Delta Airlines, as with Most Other Airlines Flying During Covid-19, Requires that Passengers Wear Face Masks While Aboard, as well as during check-in, boarding, and in Delta Sky Clubs. Delta's face mask requirement is expected to remain through at least December 31, 2020, and could well be extended.

There are exceptions for children and for passengers with health conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a mask, and passengers are also able to remove a mask to consume food and drink.

In the absence of a U.S. federal mandate (or even a DoT mandate) however, some adult passengers without a disability or medical reason that prevents wearing a mask have not complied with Delta's (or other airlines') face mask requirements, potentially putting other passengers needlessly at risk of being infected with coronavirus. There's only so much flight crew can do vis-a-vis the more intransigent passengers, since crew are supposed to de-escalate situations with any non-compliant passengers.

Delta is now taking a stronger approach that may prevent non-compliant (but otherwise healthy) individuals from boarding in the first place: urging passengers that are unable to wear a mask not to fly (“strongly encouraged to reconsider travel”), or otherwise face a mandatory “Clearance to Fly” pre-flight evaluation conducted virtually by STAT-MD prior to the flight.

STAT-MD is Delta's in-flight emergency medical partner, staffed by physicians that are also knowledgeable about FAA regulations and the Air Carrier Access Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability when it comes to air travel.

Since the ACA prohibits airlines from requiring advance notice that a person with a disability is traveling, the new “Clearance to Fly” procedure will be conducted at the airport; Delta's coronavirus FAQ says to arrive early as the process can take over 1 hour.

While Delta can make a note on the passenger's profile of a medical exemption, after successfully undergoing the “Clearance to Fly” pre-flight evaluation, the airline can require it for future flights, such that those requiring a medical exemption may need to continue to arrive earlier for their Delta flights.

United and American Airlines have threatened to ban passengers who refuse to wear face masks but don't have a medical exemption. That can be difficult to enforce once such passengers are already on the plane. Delta's approach makes more sense, since it requires all passengers who want to claim a medical exemption to declare this prior to boarding, and be interviewed by a licensed physician. For those with true medical exemption needs, that won't pose an issue, other than arriving an hour earlier, but it may well deter those who don't have a legitimate medical reason for not wearing a face mask, since Delta plans to ban passengers who make false claims, bolding mine:

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.”

If you've flown on a Delta flight recently, how compliant were other passengers about wearing face masks?

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