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Travelers who remove their protective masks after boarding flights may soon find themselves walking to their destinations -- forever.
That's according to a lobby group that represents several major U.S. airlines, which on Monday revealed airlines now have the power to permanently ban travelers who remove their masks after boarding flights. Previously, airlines employees could prevent anyone not wearing a face covering from boarding, but were powerless against those who removed the protective accessory once the flight was in the air.
"Every reputable health institution says wearing a mask is one of the most effective things people can do to protect others from contracting COVID-19, especially in places like an aircraft where social distancing is a challenge," said Toby Enqvist, United's chief customer officer, said in a press release. "We have been requiring our customers to wear masks onboard United aircraft since May 4 and we have been pleased that the overwhelming majority of passengers readily comply with our policy."
"Today's announcement is an unmistakable signal that we're prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew," Enqvist added.
Although the move gives carriers the option to ban flyers, each will decide whether it will implement the policy, according to a statement released by the lobby.
"Wearing a mask is a critical part of helping make air travel safer," Dr. James Merlino, chief clinical transformation officer at the Cleveland Clinic, said in the press release.
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