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American Opens Path for Mask-Free Flyers, Aligned with Federal Guidelines

American Opens Path for Mask-Free Flyers, Aligned with Federal Guidelines
Joe Cortez

American Airlines is now offering a path for flyers who cannot wear a face covering to still board flights. The carrier will allow those with disabilities to travel without a covering if they provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure and a signed doctor note.

American Airlines is now allowing a very limited number of passengers to travel without a face covering – assuming they can prove they have a disability. The carrier announced a new policy which allows for certain passengers requiring special assistance to fly without a federally-mandated face mask.

Flyers Must Provide Doctor Note and Negative COVID-19 Test

Under the rules issued by the Centers for Disease Control and enforced by the Transportation Security Administration, anyone traveling on an airline must wear a mask which completely covers the nose and mouth. However, the policy also allows for those with a disability who cannot wear a covering to request an exception to the rule.

In alignment with the CDC rules, American’s policy now allows for those disabled passengers to ask for a special case dispensation. In order to request mask-free travel, flyers must contact the airline’s special assistance team at least 72 hours in advance with “documentation from a licensed health care provider.” Flyers must also provide a negative COVID-19 test taken three calendar days prior to their travel, or proof of recovery from the viral infection.

Although the policy is new for the Fort Worth-based carrier, it isn’t the first time a U.S.-based airline created an exception. In July 2020, Delta Air Lines announced their “Clearance-to-Fly” protocol, which requires flyers to meet with a third-party medical professional prior to their trip to verify their condition and approve their request to fly without a face covering.

Most Flyers Still Required to Wear Face Coverings

Even with the exemptions allowed through the rule, the majority of flyers will still be required to cover their faces with a mask “made of two (or more) layers of a tightly-woven breathable fabric,” or face consequences. To date, airlines have banned over 2,700 people for refusal to wear a face covering while aboard their aircraft.

View Comments (8)


  1. doc4science

    February 4, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    This is just plain stupid. Can’t wear a mask, you can’t fly. It should be as simple as that.

  2. SamirD

    February 4, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    Click-bait article. Every domestic carrier has some sort of non-mask policy. Nothing new.

  3. PDog

    February 4, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    About time. I filed an ACCA complaint against Alaska for not having an exemption clause in their mask policy. Their response was that in a state of emergency anything goes. They can exclude whomever they want.

  4. DeltaFlyer123

    February 5, 2021 at 6:01 am

    I’m skeptical about what medical reasons there may be for not being able to wear a mask. I guess there may be some, but i also guess they would be so few and far between that no one would really notice, and it certainly would not rise to the level that it would need to be discussed as naueam. I suggest that people who refuse to wear a mask are simply obstinate and inconsiderate about the health of others, and are only interested in drawing attention to themselves.
    I will always wear a mask in public places where people are in close proximity not because I fear for my health and life, but because I want to protect others from the possibility that I may infect them. It’s not much to ask of others to do the same.
    But one message I have for airlines: If you can’t police the airports and airplanes, I’m not flying. And I’m a Delta 2-million miler, so I’ve flown a few times in my life, although my last flight was exactly a year ago, and although I have severe withdrawal symptoms from not travelling, that’s the way it will stay until I feel safe.

  5. pwd847

    February 6, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    What happens if a non-mask wearing person is sitting next to me? I dont want to deal with that!

  6. Grog

    February 11, 2021 at 6:35 pm

    There are 3 reasons provided as grounds for exemption:
    –children younger than 2 years old
    –anyone who has trouble breathing
    –anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

    With the exception of facial/cranial disfigurement, any medical basis for not wearing a mask translates to that individual being at high personal risk if they were to contract COVID-19.

    If such an individual would subject themselves to the whole commercial flight apparatus, I consider them to be irresponsible toward their own health. And if they’re irresponsible with their own life, they’re probably irresponsible towards strangers, too.

    This also tells me they probably can’t be trusted to provide a non-falsified/accurate test result and a trustworthy doctor’s note.

    Screw American Airlines. And screw any other airline who bows down to this nonsense.

  7. tkelvin69

    February 14, 2021 at 10:12 am

    A really stupid plan. At least one HMO has a blanket policy not to issue letters of exemption. If you can’t wear a mask while sitting you shouldn’t be on a plane.

  8. F16wannabe

    February 19, 2021 at 11:30 am

    But yet I was served 3 vodka cranberry drinks in F and had the mask under my chin for more time than I didn’t last week but that’s OK because I’m drinking.

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