It has been a slow, drawn-out week of public shaming and political pressure for the major U.S. airlines, but on Thursday, the social campaign culminated in a new rule, adopted en masse: All passengers must now wear face masks.
As recently as Monday, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines announced that only their employees would have to put on masks, but for customers, wearing one would be a matter of personal choice.
That didn't last long. On Thursday, those half-measures became full measures.
Now the major U.S. airlines have mandated that customers must wear masks if they want to fly.
"We believe this change will give customers and employees some additional comfort when traveling with us," a Delta official said in a statement.
We don't know about that, but we do think the precaution is long overdue.
On Monday, JetBlue announced it was "encouraging our customers to follow these recommendations," but on Thursday, that language was tightened to an unequivocal "all customers must wear face coverings."
Among international carriers, Air Canada and Lufthansa are already requiring masks, and the list of airlines joining them is expected to grow.
Airlines will furnish masks for customers who do not already possess them, but in many cities, wearing a face covering is already a prerequisite for entering an airport terminal.
For the record, the CDC's official guidance "recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."
Update, Friday, May 1: Southwest Airlines has announced: "Face coverings or masks will be required for Customers starting May 11. If you forget your mask at home, one will be available for you."