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UPDATE 1-U.S. airlines back Biden plan to mandate masks for passengers

15 Jan 2021 / 03:42 H.

    (Adds background, more from letter)

    By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

    WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - A group representing major U.S. airlines on Thursday backed President-elect Joe Biden's plan to mandate facial coverings for all air passengers, but asked him to give them flexibility in enforcing it.

    Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines Co , Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, asked Biden in a letter seen by Reuters to "allow air carriers to maintain their existing policies and practices which are aimed at de-escalating conflict in-flight and allowing the aircraft to continue while providing a consequential enforcement backstop on the ground."

    The airline group noted airlines have been enforcing the requirements and prohibiting passengers that do not comply from flying for the duration of the pandemic.

    "Thousands of passengers have been barred to date," the letter to Biden read, saying it hopes Biden applies the legal requirement to airports as well.

    President Donald Trump opposed legally requiring airline, train and public transit passengers and workers to wear masks amid the pandemic and the White House rejected efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to require facial coverings.

    Biden in October said he would mandate masks in all interstate U.S. transportation and he has recently reiterated that plan. The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

    The airlines called on Biden to apply the rules to all modes of public transport and to "require all passengers 2 years and older to wear a mask, without exception." They also called for allowing "existing practices for food and beverage consumption, medical distress and other necessary flexibilities included in air carrier operational policies."

    They also asked Biden not to extend the legal requirement to crew members. (Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Macfie)

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