American Airlines announces new policies to slow virus

American Airlines announces new policies to slow coronavirus spread

American Airlines personnel on national and regional flights will begin wearing masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the US aviation giant announced Monday.

In addition to the mask policy, which will begin May 1, the airline will also offer protective gear to passengers, the company said in a statement.

"In early May, American will start the process of distributing sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers," the statement said.

"This offering will expand to all flights as supplies and operational conditions allow."

The announcement comes the day after Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, posted a tweet slamming the lax health measures on US flights.

Nelson tweeted a photo showing a plane packed with passengers who were not observing social distancing, many of whom also were not wearing masks.

"ENOUGH!" Nelson wrote. "This was TODAY on a four hour flight. This is not ok."

She urged the federal health and transportation departments to mandate that masks be worn in airports and on planes.

American Airlines also announced that it would be stepping up its cleaning and disinfection procedures.

Fellow US flight company United Airlines said that while all personnel are required to wear masks on board, it is not mandatory for passengers.

We "suggest customers follow the directives from their local officials and CDC guidance that recommends face coverings in places where social distancing is difficult," a spokesman for the airline told AFP.

According to the spokesman, the company is already "taking additional steps to promote social distancing in the air and on the ground."

United also began earlier in April to automatically assign seats on flights to help maintain social distancing, he said.

"We expect to implement addition, temporary changes to our policies on... seating throughout the entire aircraft, as well as making adjustments to the boarding process," the spokesman said.

In particular, United will limit advanced seat selection and board fewer passengers at a time to prevent any crowding as people take their seats.