ATLANTA - In a memo this week, Delta Airlines’ CEO told staff nearly 700 passengers have been placed on the no-fly list in 2020 for refusing to comply with policies requiring masks on planes.
This is a sharp increase from the 460 banned passengers the airline reported in October. Delta and other airlines have been adding mask rule-breaking passengers to the no-fly list since early in the pandemic.
Delta is not alone, latest numbers from United report about 430 passengers of that airline have been added to the no-fly list for not following their mask policy, and 88 have been banned from JetBlue flights.
A Department of Defense study found that masks, combined with airplanes’ air filtration systems, can greatly reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus during a flight.
While that sounds like a lot of passengers, Delta told Fox News they are flying about 1 million customers per week.
In the message to staff Wednesday, Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian thanked employees for taking unpaid leave and manage reductions in hours earlier this year, which helped them be one of the few airlines that avoided involuntary furloughs. Ground workers and headquarters employees were cut to three or four days a week.
However, he is now asking employees again to take unpaid leaves of absence to help the company save money, according to the staff memo. Bastian said Wednesday that Delta will need more employees to take unpaid leave “for the foreseeable future.”
“I ask everyone to consider whether a voluntary leave makes sense for you and your family,” he said in a memo to employees.
About 15,000 Delta employees have already left the airline through buyouts and early retirements, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
It's a sign of the deepening slump in air travel with coronavirus cases rising across the country. Delta expects to lose up to $12 million a day on average during the fourth quarter.
Delta is also one of the last airlines to block the middle seats on their planes, and says they will do so through March 2021.
Unlike American and United, Atlanta-based Delta has avoided furloughs since the pandemic started by convincing thousands of workers to retire early or take unpaid leave.
But the air travel recovery seems to be faltering. Passenger traffic rose over Thanksgiving week but has dropped since then.