Face masks

Traveling? Face Masks required through at least September 13

Almost every airline, airport, railroad, and public transportation mode put face mask requirements into effect pretty early into the pandemic. The federal government did not.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) first issued its face mask requirement on February 1, 2021, with an initial expiration date of May 11.

Last week the agency announced it is extending the face mask requirement for individuals across all transportation networks throughout the United States through September 13,

That includes airports, on board commercial aircraft, on buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems.

So today, we’re bringing back some of the creative branded face masks from airports that we’ve been collecting. If you have more to share, please send them along.

Federal Face Mask Mandate applies to airplanes

One of the executive orders President Joe Biden signed on his first day in office is a 100-day mask mandate. The rule applies to all federal property, including national parks, airlines, trains, and transit systems that travel between states.

Many travelers and parts of the travel industry are applauding the move. And it looks like we’ll have the new Bernie Sanders-bundled-up-at-the inauguration meme to help us remember to stick with the program.

There’s even an app that will help you put the masked-up Sanders at your favorite airport – or anywhere Google has mapped.

Here here is at Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

See Alaska Airlines’ new safety dance & buy the airline’s holiday sweater for a good cause

Airlines aren’t messing around when they say “Wear a mask. Or else.”

So far, Delta Air Lines has banned more than 700 passengers who refuse to mask up. And Alaska Airlines has banned 219 flyers under the airline’s “No Mask, No Travel” policy.

Now, to help get their point across about masks, Alaska Airlines has a safety dance video.

Alaska Airline’s “Safety Dance” video was directed by Warren Fu. He’s known for his work with artists such as Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Daft Punk. and HAIM. The video was choreographed by Anna Matuszewski, who is known for her work with Macklemore.

Even better, the people dancing in the video are real Alaska Airlines employees.

Buy an ugly Alaska Airlines holiday sweater for a good cause

For the past few years, anyone wearing a holiday sweater was treated to priority boarding on Alaska Airlines flights on National Ugly Sweater Day.

National Ugly Sweater Day is December 18th this year. But Alaska Airlines won’t be offering early boarding for holiday sweater-wearers due to social distancing guidelines.

Instead, Alaska Airlines is inviting sweater fans to purchase their own Alaska Airlines-branded ugly sweater for $30 each, with the proceeds going to provide holiday meals for those in need.

Funds will be donated to United Way’s Ride United Last-Mile Delivery initiative, which partners local United Ways with DoorDash and its “Dashers” (drivers) to deliver food from local food banks, food pantries and other distribution points to senior citizens, low income families and those who can’t leave home.

The sweaters are for sale on Alaska Airlines’ company store website, where you’ll also find fun gifts such as Luly Yang socks and holiday ornaments, such as tiny little ugly sweaters.

Airports welcome back travelers with new rules, protocols and promises

Airports are joining airlines in ramping up service and welcoming passengers back to terminals that have been all but empty for months due to a record coronavirus-induced drop in air traffic.

And, like the airlines, most every airport is going all out to proclaim extreme vigilance in keeping facilities clean and travelers safe.

Mask required for all passengers entering the terminals?  Yes at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C. and in many other cities. Airports in some other cities, such as Charlotte, recommend face masks be worn in the terminals although most airlines now require passengers wear masks from the curb to – and onto – the planes.

Don’t have a mask? Airports will have them for you.

The Federal Government is in the process of distributing more than 86 million masks to airports. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) now has a stash of 4.7 million masks for distribution. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has 2.5 million masks ready to hand out.

Floor decals marking six-foot lengths to encourage social distancing? Check.

Harrisburg International Airport (MDT), not far from Hershey, PA, reminds travelers to stay 6 feet or 72 KISSES chocolates away from other passengers.

Upgraded and robust cleaning protocols? Check. Airport employees – and in some cases, robots, such as the autonomous robotic floor scrubbers at Pittsburgh International Airport – are wiping, washing, spraying and sanitizing at every turn.

Oodles of hand sanitizing stations? Check. Some airports have added hundreds of sanitizer dispensers and, like Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), now note the dispenser locations on maps and apps.

Plexiglass barriers at check-in counters, security checkpoints and gates? Check.

Step stools to make it easy for kids (and short people) to wash their hands in airport bathrooms? Check. More than 200 airports (and counting) now have Step ‘n Wash devices in the restrooms.

Shops and vending machines selling personal protective equipment? Check.

Many airport shops now stock PPE supplies and PPE vending machines are installed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and at Denver International Airport. Hudson just announced plans to roll out PPE vending machines at 27 major airports in North America.

Branded plans and promises

Like the airlines, airports are also rolling out branded plans to underscore their commitment to cleanliness and passenger safety. 

The Houston Airport’s “FlySafeHouston” program includes adding facial comparison technology at 15 gates by October and UV disinfecting cuffs for escalators, among other measures.  

At Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport it’s the “MSY Travel Ready” plan. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has a Travel Safely at LAX plan. Jacksonville International Airport has its JAX Airport Cares program. And at Miami International Airport, it’s #MIACares.”

In many cases airport COVID-19 response plans highlight new technology and bonus efforts being made. 

For example, the “Traveler Confidence Plan” at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport notes that the main escalators have “newly installed UV-C handrail sterilization modules” and that the airport has new high-capacity floor cleaners.

The #ReadySetROC initiative at the Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) in New York promises that enhanced cleaning includes a regular misting of anti-bacterial cleaner/solution on seating and surfaces.

At McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, which installed the country’s first vending machine filled with personal protective equipment (PPE), the campaign is dubbed “LAS All In,” and includes Vegas-themed slogans such as “Don’t roll the dice: Stay 6 ft apart!” and “We’re doubling down on cleaning and sanitizing.”

TSA has new safety protocols too

This summer travelers will also encounter some new protocols at most every airport security checkpoint in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Transportation Security Administration’s updated security procedures now allow travelers to carry up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in carry-on bags, but require those containers to be screened separately. Passengers may also wear their face masks during the TSA screening process but should be ready to lower or adjust the mask for an identity check.

To avoid having TSA officers touch passengers’ paper boarding passes or mobile devices, TSA will ask all passengers to scan their own boarding pass and hold it up for a TSA officer to do a visual check.

And TSA now asks that any food packed in carry-on bags to removed and scanned separately. So to avoid having your food contaminated in a bin or on the belt, be sure to pack it inside a clear plastic bag.

Wear a face mask at the airport & on the plane. Or else!

Most every airline now requires passengers to wear face coverings in airports and on airplanes.

But now the failure to do so may result in denied boarding or a ban on future travel.

On Monday, the airline trade group Airlines for America (A4A) announced that for the duration of the COVID-19 health crisis its member airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and United, are stepping up enforcement of face coverings.

The airlines will also now impose “substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules.”

Each carrier will be determining its own set of consequences for passengers who do not comply. But those policies may now include being banned from flying on the airline.

United Airlines says in a statement that starting June 18 and for at least the next 60 days, “any passenger that does not comply when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list. Customers on this list will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review.”

United has been requiring passengers to wear masks on board aircraft since May 4 and most passengers have been complying.

But not all. So the new rule “is an unmistakable signal that we’re prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew,” said United’s Chief Customer Officer, Toby Enqvist in the airline’s statement.

United says flight attendants will “proactively inform” customers not wearing face mask of the rules and offer masks, if needed.

Then:

If the customer continues to be non-compliant, flight attendants will do their best to de-escalate the situation, again inform the customer of United’s policy, and provide the passenger with an In-Flight Mask policy reminder card.”

If a customer continues to not comply, the flight attendant will file a report of the incident, which will initiate a formal review process.”

Any final decision or actions regarding a customer’s future flight benefits will not occur onboard but instead take place after the flight has reached its destination and the security team has investigated the incident.

American Airlines says its updated policies will go into effect June 16. Customers who do not comply with the requirement to wear face coverings at the gate will be denied boarding.

“American may also deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering,” the airline said in a statement.

Other airlines will likely spell out the consequences for not complying with the face mask requirement in the next day or two.