It was just earlier this year that the Department of Transportation finally moved to ban the Noah’s Ark approach passengers had come to take in bringing animals on a plane, under the rubric of the Air Carrier Access Act which provided that customers who needed an animal for a medical condition (emotional support) had to be accommodated free of charge.
Anyone who claimed to need emotional support had been exempt from the rules about what kind of animals to bring, how many, and at what cost. We saw pit bulls, horses, turkeys, and birds of all kinds. Yet if you failed to say the magic three words ’emotional support animal’ you’d have to leave behind your pet fish and hamster behind.
It turns out that mask wearing requirements work exactly the same way. If you say you have a medical reason not to wear one, you do not have to. From the Alaska Airlines FAQ a-on masks and social distancing (Emphasis mine.)
If a guest is exempt, how should they notify Alaska Airlines?
Guests are encouraged to communicate their exemption with an Alaska Airlines representative when they arrive at the airport. Note: In line with health privacy laws, guests are not required to disclose or prove their specific medical condition to airline employees and are asked to notify our airport staff upon boarding. Airport staff will inform the flight attendants of guests who have a medical exemption.
Hopefully everyone will wear a mask because it gives other passengers confidence to fly if for no other reason.
Here in Austin masks are required outdoors, but the Texas has eliminated penalties that cities had imposed. It’s a rule without teeth. And yet people are wearing masks because it isn’t about the law it’s about meeting obligations to the rest of society.
We focus way too much on rules, and forget that people stopped going to restaurants in large numbers prior to governments closing them down. And not everyone will immediately return, either, once jurisdictions allow them to open back up.
It’s easy to focus on the outlier passengers – they usually fly Spirit here in the U.S. and Jet2 in the U.K. – who cause problems for everyone else. Most people, though, are sensible and responsible.