Failure To Mask Causes Delta Flight To Turn Back


A Delta flight from Detroit to Atlanta last week returned to its departure airport after two passengers refused to wear face masks aboard, according to multiple reports. The Detroit Free Press quotes Delta personnel saying that the “customers in question were removed due to non-compliance with Delta’s mask requirement.” Flight 1227 eventually made it to Atlanta minus two pax.

Delta has been aggressive in enforcing mask use in flight. For customers who claim health issues for not wearing a mask, Delta has begun requiring a “virtual health consultation” via telephone before departure. “We encourage customers who are prevented from wearing a mask due to a health condition to reconsider travel,” Delta said. “If they decide to travel, they will be welcome to fly upon completing a virtual consultation prior to departure at the airport to ensure everyone’s safety, because nothing is more important.”

Since airlines have begun requiring passengers and crew to wear masks in the airport and on board aircraft, the normal recourse for passengers who refuse to wear masks has been to refuse future travel. Delta, it seems, has taken the issue to the next stage by returning to the airport of departure to enforce its rules.

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. Good for Delta. They are demonstrating their commitment to people over profits, which is what life is all about after all, isn’t it? And in so doing they are also sending a strong marketing message that they are a trustworthy company that truly puts the welfare of people first!

    • Really!!?? Then WHY is it stated on the outside of a mask box, most generally in use: “This product is an ear loop mask. This product . . . will not provide any protection against Covid-19 or any other Virus or contaminates.”

      • I am going to get a T-shirt that says: Friend, your mask is to protect me! If a person who has the virus wears a mask it keeps that person from expelling particle in their breath, which can cause the virus, from dispersing into the air.

      • Because, as has been explained numerous times, wearing such a mask is to protect others, not yourself. Masks have shown to be effective when used this way. This being the case it is obvious that it only works as an effective means of slowing transmission of the virus if everybody complies.

      • Looks like you should revisit the concept of risk mitigation. Why even wear a seat belt..?

  2. So the aircraft actually took off before they realized two passengers weren’t wearing masks? Or did the passengers initially wear a mask and then took them off after departure?

  3. If they were on a sparsely occupied flight, who cares if they wear porous, ill-fitting, and non-medical “masks”?

  4. Oh, and if Delta serves snacks or drinks, the ill-fitting ineffective masks are lowered anyway. Policy over reason.

  5. Regardless of which way you come down on the mask issue, rules are rules. If the airline decides to require masks be worn, then to not enforce the rule is the same as having no rules at all. The passengers know the rules before they board the plane. If they choose to not follow the rules, then consequences must follow. If they feel that masks are ineffective or placebos, then they should have found an alternative way to travel. No one said they had to wear a mask, they just said if you want to fly Delta, you will wear a mask. Oh, and the airline has also greatly restricted eating and drinking on the planes. They will allow you to remove your mask to eat, but must put it back on when you are finished.

    • Or… if your a competitive airline, just add enough people like this to Delta flights. You can ruin their passenger base with massive delays and cause Delta to burn lots of extra fuel for just the price of a discount ticket.

  6. It’s Delta’s airplanes, staffed by Delta personnel, and Delta’s policy to wear masks on board. It’s Delta’s rules. Bravo to Delta for enforcing their rules. It’s heartwarming to see a company looking out for their most precious assets, passengers and Delta crews. For some reason, so many think that rules are meant to be broken if they feel them to clash with their personal belief system.

    You don’t like wearing a mask, walk, drive, or fly “Mask Free Airlines” (MFA).

    I hope Delta’s lawyers send out a bill for the fuel, landing fee, and gate expenses to the two passengers who knew the rules, boarded anyways, but thought they were above Delta’s desire and ability to enforce them. These two former Delta passengers purposefully tried pushing Delta’s “buttons”. They outta pay for that presumption, causing inconvenience to all the other passengers including crew, and expenses incurred.

    • Except taking off the mask is still allowed to consume food and drinks. That’s nuts to think that the virus won’t spread during meal time.

      • That is a great example of the “Perfect Solution” logical fallacy. It’s like arguing that since drunk-driving accidents still happen, drunk-driving laws don’t work.

        Wearing a mask is like a drunk-driving law. The more people who follow it, the fewer problems result. It is not an absolute, all-or-nothing result.

        Here’s why: It takes more than a single virus particle to infect someone – it’s not a simple matter of “tag – you’re it!”, despite the nightly-news graphics showing 6-foot circles around people on a sidewalk that turn red when they intersect. The chance of someone getting infected (and the severity of the infection) has a lot to do with how much of a “viral load” that person has received. A dentist coughing in your face while cleaning your teeth? High viral load. Walking past someone outdoors while both are wearing masks? Low viral load. Minimizing exposure through short time, long distance, and/or a mask wearing minimizes the risk. Taking a mask off just while eating does not mean a person negated 100% of the benefit. It just means the risks have increased a bit during that time.

        It’s also part of the reason why some people may exhibit mild symptoms, while others get deathly ill. The human body has many natural defences that can slow down even ‘novel’ viruses while it develops antibodies to fight off the infection. A low viral load gives the body time to work up a defense. A high viral load overwhelms the body. Of course, overall general health and other factors being studied make a difference, too.

        It’s the same reason why shopping in a store for a few minutes does not carry the same risk as going into a school or work building for 5-8 hours a day. It’s all about ‘defense in depth’. There is no one silver bullet – multiple layers must be applied, each layer reducing the risk enough to minimize the chance of infection.

        • No, it’s a perfect example of policy over reason. With ZERO regulation on masks then no mask is jus as good as an improperly worn mask or a sub-standard loose paper mask. It’s insane to say a bandana or a mask with large gaps is ok but not wearing an inefective mask is a problem….

          • Ah, another great example of the “Perfect Solution” fallacy: If all masks are not equally effective, then no mask works.

            The reality is that any reasonable “face covering” will hinder the spread (or ingestion) of droplets and particles. For example, the fact that so many people complain about mask discomfort as an excuse for not wearing one proves the point – if wearing a mask was the same as not wearing one, no one would be bothered.

            Some masks are obviously more effective than others (a fishnet stocking would be clearly useless, as would a ski mask), but any reasonable kind of fabric will offer a layer of defense that is easy and cheap to implement until better solutions come along.

  7. So did they pull a page from United Airlines and have the cops haul the offenders off with a few cuts and bruises?

    I am not a lawyer but how can they require “medical consultation” before flight? I thought the issue with all the service dogs (cats, horses, fish, and crocodiles) was that by law (ADA?) they cannot ask the cause of the disability or make any attempt at determining medical necessity?

    Oh and lets not pretend that this is “valuing people over profits”. That is a throwaway line corporate muckety-mucks use to placate the riffraff while they shaft the workers. Delta has made a conscious decision that they will aggressively enforce this rule because they figure it is in their best interest. Be it avoidance of lawsuits because some one might claim to have caught an illness on a flight or disturbances of over eager rabble rousing “mask shamers” with an itching finger on their cellphone.

  8. Jim H is correct. Is is Delta’s planes, Delta’s crew, Delta’s rules. The flight crew does have the authority to enforce the mask rule put out by Delta. On the other hand any individual has the right not to spend their own hard earned money to fly. I won’t! Not only that I have done several 7+ hour drives to avoid airlining for my job. And my company is avoiding airlining and overnights as much as possible. Since March I have had only 2 overnights and no airline rides. And my company is almost as busy as this time last year.

    Since I have several times expressed my opinion on the mask rules I will just say this. No matter where you are on this issue, there is an election coming up in November. Then another primary and general election next year if this virus continues. Vote! In this country it is the ultimate way to get unwanted politicians or policies removed or changed. If you don’t then you deserve whatever the election outcome is and have no right to complain.

  9. At this point we are well into the pandemic. No country has had a perfect win-loss record in terms of “beating” the virus, but overall, there are now clear winners and losers. The winners executed on masking and distancing (sometimes to extremes). Some of these countries had additional options available to them, but they also masked and distanced, and they’re doing way better than us. Some of these countries are dirt poor compared to us; those strategies were all they had, they used them, and they’re doing way better than us.

    We in the US, on the other hand, are losing by every metric. L-O-S-I-N-G. Why would anyone want to be a loser? I guess they don’t want to do what it takes to win.

    • @Jeff B. Not necessarily true. The ultimate outcome will only be known after the virus has finished spreading into a population. Suppose everyone is completely isolated for a while. That merely postpones the spread. The virus will spread when the isolation is relaxed. When will the virus stop spreading? Pretty much when it has saturated the population, thereby giving herd immunity, or until a vaccine is obtained. It has recently been claimed Vietnam has had 0 deaths. I find that hard to believe. But if true, it’s probably because the infection arrived there late, and had not spread yet. However, if actually due to heroic isolation efforts, what happens when those efforts are relaxed ? The virus will begin spreading. So why cripple the economy endlessly, which is a postponement of infection, not an ultimate prevention.

      • Actually, if everyone completely isolated for a while, the virus would be stopped entirely. This is what happened with SARS. It didn’t stop because everyone got infected or because of herd immunity. Neither is the case. In fact, SARS was stopped before a vaccine could be developed (none exists today).

        The big difference from Covid-19 is SARS was mainly infectious only while people had symptoms, so it was easy to isolate those people and stop the spread entirely. With Covid-19 (SARS-2), it can be spread well before people have symptoms, so isolating the sick is too late to stop the spread.

        As for herd immunity – like many coronaviruses, immunity seems to last only weeks or months. It’s not like the chicken pox, you don’t get life-long immunity. So the idea that everyone should mingle and ‘get it over with’ would result in millions of deaths and no benefit – Covid-19 will just come back in a later season.

        As it is now, even with our half-measures we’re losing about 1,000/day here in the U.S to Covid-19. That’s the equivalent of three packed airliners crashing. Every day.

    • Regarding COVID 19 as a political problem is feeding the problem. If November 4, 2020 has anything to do with the resolution it will be because a new administration will regard COVID 19 as a pandemic with scientific solutions.

      • I wouldn’t count on that. In my travels to various FBOs and a training center there are plenty of POed persons out there who are extremely unhappy with most of the restrictions and shutdowns including the mask issue. If those persons actually vote in November there may be a lot of one term politicians who find themselves out of a job.

          • The world view of staggeringly ignorant Trumpers. I would think as aviation professionals we would know better. Great something else to “see and avoid”

  10. John G, and will all the people who have died from it just miraculously be alive again on November 4? (If your comment was meant as sarcasm, sorry, and ignore my question.)

  11. “Suppose everyone is completely isolated for a while. That merely postpones the spread. The virus will spread when the isolation is relaxed. When will the virus stop spreading? Pretty much when it has saturated the population, thereby giving herd immunity, or until a vaccine is obtained.”

    Nope. Look at Italy and Spain. They had huge numbers of cases (relative to their population) and a super strict lockdown. Big fines for going out, almost all activity stopped, etc for 6-8 weeks. That knocked the spread down so much that authorities can test and trace new infections to the point where the spread is controllable even though the lockdown has ended. If you were allowed to travel to Italy tomorrow (EU is restricting Americans because of CV) you can go to a restaurant, visit a museum, or go to a bar.

  12. Good for Delta. They set up rules which require passengers to behave in a way that keeps other passengers and crew safer from COVID-19. They enforce those rules.

    I am making very careful choices about what trips I make, because I want to limit my exposure to this disease. I am watching the airlines to see which will put me in more danger (by making me sit next to a stranger who may infect me) and which will reduce the danger (by enforcing sensible mask rules). I’m a long way from taking a long flight anywhere, but Delta is increasing my confidence in them.

  13. I agree rules are rules and I would wear a mask on Delta but I would hate it, and I am a physician and treat people with Covid.

    It’s a virus. Like the flu. It’s not cancer, AIDS, or Ebola.

    Get on with your life as you see fit.

    If you are high risk or a fraidy-cat protect yourself.

    • To date, the death rate of COVID-19 is 32 times that for influenza (in 2020) and 1.75 times the rate for the 1918 Spanish influenza; it is 2000 times the current death rate for AIDS. You are correct, however, that the death rate for Ebola is higher (by 14 times). There is no way to make a credible comparison to cancer without specifying the specific type and an agreed survival period.

      In view of the above, I’m not sure I agree that taking straightforward actions to protect others from COVID infection makes someone a fraidy-cat.

  14. As I said It’s OK if people want to protect themselves as they see fit.

    The rest of us Americans should be free to take a risk as we see fit and get on with our lives.

    • William K.,

      I find your views interesting since you are a physician treating Covid patients. I have been at my doctor’s office several times since this started and never once did the subject of my not wearing a mask in his office was brought up. Since my state has issued a mask mandate I will on my next visit. It would be interesting to see if there are more physicians out there who feel as you do.

      • Since this can be a political issue we all wear masks when working with patients but we do as we see fit otherwise. Everyone is different. We doctors represent roughly the same cross section of society as pilots, from conservative to liberal, leaning conservative as a group.

        • I don’t care if my patients mask or not with me, but I will always wear a mask with them.

    • Sorry, Dr. K., it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you are free to take risks, but this is not one of those times. Wearing a mask in public is not intended to protect you, it is intended to protect other people from you. Since this disease is exquisitely contagious, especially before most carriers know they are sick, the mask helps to reduce your spittle from reaching others. Your logic is like saying it is okay to drive drunk since you will only hurt yourself in an accident. But, half the fatalities in drunk driving accidents are innocent bystanders, so your actions can and will harm others. Wanna take risks? Go skydiving or alligator wrestling. But when your actions can affect others, do what you can to minimize their risks.

  15. It amazes me at times the nature of humans that they can somehow become experts in a field they have no experience in and feel so confident that they spout words that can be construed as nonsense. Let’s make a given that most people who read and post on AVWeb are pilots. If they took up a passenger that started to defy rules and regulations of flying from as simple as wearing a seat belt to grabbing controls thinking *they* knew better…I bet many pilots would be appalled at what ever reasoning would come forth.

    So here we are, full blown pandemic and scientists and medical experts ultimately determine that wearing a mask, one of three basic actions helps to stop the spread. it helps others and even helps the wearer, yet here come folks that feel they know better. “It doesn’t really work” being the main illogical reasoning. “Look at them eating, they are spreading the virus” et al. Right down to the “I don’t want to because [fill int dumb reason].”

    As stated well by others, if a business mandates a rule, they do not have to justify or explain (though most do) why that rule is in place. In the case of Delta, they are up front about their rule.

    Wear a mask.

    I would dare any pilot here to not wear a seat-belt while operating as PIC with an FAA examiner next to you. How would you deal with a passenger that would not wear a seat-belt when you also have an FAA examiner with you in a plane? You may not like a rule, but nonetheless, if it is in place it needs to be enforced by those in charge. Argue wearing a mask in the safety of your own home, but as we have discovered, don’t try doing that on a Delta flight.

    let’s keep in mind that these types of rules are pervasive. We are required to wear seat-belts driving a car. Don’t like it, think it does not matter or you can escape an accident better without, tell it to a cop writing the ticket. I ride horses as a hobby. Good luck trying to compete without a helmet at a recognized show so even if I didn’t like wearing (I do), I would need to without complaint. Then there is the basic “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”. Don’t hear the populous up in arms over something that is even more restrictive than a mask.

    Wearing a mask for a short period of time is a no-brainer. There is a pandemic. Smart people who know their job state this helps reduce the spread (along with social distancing and washing hands) and we *all* want this thing to end. Good god, men may not like wearing condoms, but I bet if they want a little romp in the field they better be prepared unless they don’t mind catching “I’m a Dad” in 9 months. I like to think pilots are smart people…let’s be smart and wear a mask and stop complaining till this is over.

  16. I am not saying that wearing a mask does not reduce transmission, it probably helps. I’m just saying I don’t care.

    If a person is at high risk, and they wish to remain ‘safe’, I don’t object. They can isolate themselves. The rest of the country can and should get on with life as they see fit.

    The drunk driving analogy does not fit. I view it like this:
    As a non-drinker I should not be expected to drive a drunk home. It’s his or her responsibility, not mine. I am not opposed to it, and may do it as a Christian, but I would not respond to it being mandated.

    Also recall, ultimately we are all worm food. Also recall most of the deaths ‘from’ CV and not from CV per se but comorbid conditions. The numbers are manipulated and inflated by government officials who have a vested interest in people being sheep.

    So, feel free to protect yourself. The rest of us will go to work and move the country and the economy forward.

    Most important, remember we are all mortal. Best to get to know your Maker before you meet Him.