Delta Announces Health Screenings for Passengers Who Can't Wear Masks

The new COVID-19 policy goes into effect today for all Delta flights

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If you plan to fly Delta without wearing a mask, you might want to think twice. The airline recently announced an update to its mask policy stating passengers who can't comply with wearing a face cover should "reconsider travel." As an alternative, passengers refusing to wear a mask who still wish to travel will be subject to a health screening.

For customers with disabilities or health issues that prevent the usage of masks, they're now required to complete a "Clearance-to-Fly" screening before boarding. This process can take more than an hour, so the airline recommends passengers show up with time to spare, so they don't miss their flight.

The screening is a virtual phone consultation conducted by STAT-MD, a "physician-driven service providing consultation services to airlines," according to their website. The Pittsburgh based company provides inflight and pre-flight consultations that are conducted via phone by a group of board-certified in emergency medicine physicians, employed by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. STAT-MD did not respond to a query regarding what the screening entails.

After completing the virtual medical screening, Delta will then determine if a passenger can fly without the use of a mask. But they warn there are consequences for anyone providing inaccurate information: "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."

This policy, which goes into effect on Monday, July 20, is a part of Delta's COVID-19-related updates, which include blocking middle seats, reducing the number of passengers, and boarding from back to front, all of which are in effect until at least Sept. 30. 

Though other airlines haven't announced health screenings for passengers who can't or won't wear masks, they do have COVID-19 policies in place.

JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit all require face coverings at the gates and on flights. For passengers who remove their masks in flight, some carriers like American and United will place them on a restriction or ban list, preventing them from flying for a specified amount of time.