After weeks of confusion as to whether passengers should be wearing masks on commercial flights in the US, one leading regional carrier has finally introduced a zero-tolerance policy. This makes it a requirement for all passengers over the age of two travelling on WestJet to wear a face mask or face covering.

Passengers who don’t comply will face penalties, including being denied boarding which could see an aircraft return to the gate so the passenger can be offloaded and suspended from travelling on any WestJet Group aircraft for up to 12 months.

It’s a hard line that needs to be taken across any commercial flight to avoid the feared second wave of COVID-19. But it seems not all airlines and passengers are using common sense. On a recent Tui flight from Greece to the UK, 16 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 after they flouted the mask-wearing recommendation. The remaining 193 passengers and crew aboard have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. This situation could so easily have been avoided if all passengers had complied with the recommendation.

The simple protocol can be applied by any airline and explained to any passenger contemplating a flight. WestJet has a straightforward three-stage process: 1) Passengers will be asked to put on the mask in a discussion with cabin crew. 2) Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required, and that compliance is necessary. 3) Passengers will receive notice that non-compliance will result in follow up notification that they will be placed on a non-fly list for 12 months.

With commercial aviation still taking tentative steps back into the air, perhaps it’s time for passengers who have craved the opportunity to fly to use their head and follow the advice of the cabin crew. We all want air travel to be like it was but, until then, we need to pull together and support the airline staff in the cabin.

WestJet crew member wearing a mask

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