Welcome to the era of face-masked flying.

Frontier Airlines announced Thursday all passengers must wear face masks aboard planes starting May 8 to reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus and other infections, making it the second domestic airline to require masks, following a similar announcement this week by JetBlue.

Industry experts say they expect more airlines to follow suit as airlines, which has been devastated by the coronavirus, remodel business practices in hopes of persuading people to return to flying.

Southwest, the main carrier out of Sacramento, says it is encouraging passengers to wear face masks and gloves on flights. A company official hinted earlier this week the airline soon could make that a requirement.

Southwest also currently “invites” customers on its flights “to space out at comfortable distances to support social distancing.” That policy is manageable because most flights have few passengers. Airlines have begun looking at reconfiguring or redesigning their seating to offer fliers more space.

American Airlines is expected to begin handing out sanitizing wipes, or gels, and face masks to fliers in May. Flight attendants are required to wear masks as of Friday.

The airline industry in the last month has lost 95 percent of its business, making it one of the hardest-hit in the country.

Airline industry officials, among them Sacramento airports chief Cindy Nichols, says airports and airlines are currently analyzing what longterm changes their industry must make to regain consumer confidence and to reduce the chances that flying might spread viruses.

Frontier Airlines continues to operate flights between Sacramento and Las Vegas three days a week, and plans to increase that to daily flights in June, according to airport officials. The airline recently suspended its Sacramento to Denver flights, but is expected to resume those by Memorial Day.

The airline announced Thursday its face mask policy for passengers extends to the airline’s ticket counters, gate areas as well as on board aircraft.

Frontier flight crews have been wearing face masks since April 13.

“We want our passengers to feel comfortable when flying with us by protecting themselves and their fellow travelers as we all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier Airlines. “This new measure is aligned with CDC recommendations and those of many municipalities within the U.S. that include wearing a face covering when out in public.”

The airline also implemented a “health acknowledgment” policy in April, requiring passengers to certify they are not sick and that they checked their temperature before heading to the airport, and they will sanitize their hands before boarding.

The airline currently is blocking every other row of seats on flights through the first week of May.


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