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Business/Economy

Alaska Airlines will require passengers and employees to wear face masks

A passenger checks in for a flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (AP File Photo/Kathy Willens)

Alaska Airlines will require employees to wear face masks starting Monday and passengers a week later.

The airline announced the changes Friday and called the COVID-19 pandemic protections necessary to “align with Centers for Disease Control recommendations and to keep employees and guests safe.”

Passengers must start wearing masks on May 11, the airline says. Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air employees who can’t maintain 6 feet of social distance will begin wearing them Monday. That includes pilots, flight attendants and customer service agents.

Passengers will be expected to bring their own masks and wear them in the airport and on the flight, the airline said. Additional supplies will be available for anyone who forgets a mask.

More information will be available next week including on any exemptions, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said Friday.

“There are a lot of questions, I’m sure,” Egan said. The company is still working out specifics on where in the airport masks might be required, she said.

Most U.S. airlines will soon require passengers cover their faces. JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines all announced similar requirements this week.

Alaska Airlines is also blocking middle seats on larger aircraft and aisle seats on smaller ones through May, the company said. Additional safety measures include using high-grade disinfectants on “critical touch points” such as tray tables and seat belts; expanded use of electrostatic sanitizing spray; more frequent cleaning of airport counters, lounges and high-traffic areas; and continued use of hospital-grade filters to remove airborne particles in the cabin.

Egan noted that families that want to fly together are still able to use middle seats. It’s individual travelers who fall under the new policy. Families can call Alaska’s reservation hotline to make sure they all sit together, she said.

The coronavirus pandemic has shut down much air travel into and out of Alaska as passenger traffic dropped precipitously. Alaska Air cut hundreds of flights and parked aircraft.

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