U.S. airlines have banned 700-plus passengers for not wearing masks

Delta Air Lines worker hands a boarding pass to a passenger
A Delta Air Lines worker hands a boarding pass to a passenger in July at Denver International Airport. The carrier has banned 270 people from its flights for refusing to wear face coverings.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

If you ignore the requirement to wear a mask on a commercial flight, you could join the more than 700 passengers who have been banned from flying on the nation’s largest airlines.

Delta Air Lines leads all carriers, having placed 270 passengers on its “no fly” list for flouting its mask policy. It’s followed by United Airlines, with 150; Spirit Airlines, 128; Frontier Airlines, 106; Alaska Airlines, 78; and Hawaiian Airlines, six.

Airline representatives said the carriers are not sharing the names of passengers with one another, making it likely that a passenger banned from one airline can continue to fly on others.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines declined to disclose how many passengers they have banned for violating the face-covering rule.

“We expect our customers to comply with our policies when they choose to travel with us, and we take action when that is not the case,” American Airlines spokesman Curtis Blessing said.


In addition to the bans it has doled out, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has issued 92 warnings, or “yellow cards,” to passengers who had to be admonished more than once on a flight for ignoring the mask policy.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all major carriers in the U.S. require that passengers over the age of 2 wear face coverings during flights except when drinking, eating or taking medicine.

Airlines cannot fine violators, because federal regulators, including those in the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Human Services, have rebuffed requests from airline workers, lawmakers and others to adopt a federal mask mandate.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has urged fliers to wear masks but has said it should be up to the airlines to enforce their own mask rules.

Sara Nelson, president of the Assn. of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 19 airlines, said she is glad airlines are banning passengers who ignore the mask rule but noted that flight attendants have repeatedly called for a federal mandate.

“Flight attendants want a federal mandate, and so do lawmakers,” she said. “Just like anyone smoking on a plane faces federal charges and fines, so too should people understand the serious consequences of putting the health of others at risk by refusing to wear a mask.”


How long a passenger remains banned by an airline depends on the airline and the behavior of the passenger during the flight when the violation took place, according to airline representatives.

A Delta representative said a flier who ignores the rule can be banned for as long as the carrier requires passengers to wear masks, at a minimum. But a passenger can be barred permanently depending on his or her behavior in response to being asked to wear a mask, the Delta representative said.

Hawaiian Airlines said the six passengers who were banned for flouting the mask rule won’t be allowed to board one of its planes for a year.