U.S. airlines back Biden plan to mandate passenger face masks but there's a catch

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A group representing major U.S. airlines threw their support behind President-elect Joe Biden's plan to have all Americans wear masks for his first 100 days in office to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but asked that he grant flexibility for airline enforcement.

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In a letter Thursday, Airlines for America requested he “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,” first reported Reuters.

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The group, which represents American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United and others, pointed out that airlines have already been enforcing mask requirements when flying with them, and have barred “thousands of passengers” to date.

Biden announced his intention to enforce a 100-day mask mandate in October, during his first 100 days in office – a move President Trump flatly rejected, saying he thought individual states should determine their requirements.

The group also reportedly asked Biden to enforce the rule on all modes of public transportation for all people ages 2 and up, and asked the president-elect to allow the airlines to dictate their food and beverage policies.

Airlines stopped serving food and beverages after the pandemic started, but most have an option that allows passengers to bring their own drinks and snacks.

The letter to Biden comes as he announced his plan to roll out a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Thursday.

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The proposal he will ask Congress to approve once he enters office next week, includes an “America Rescue Plan,” which will allocate $160 billion to a national vaccination program to bolster vaccine distribution rates across the country.

Another $440 billion will be allocated for community and business relief, while a whopping $1 trillion will be used for direct relief for people and government entities.

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He is also asking Congress to approve another round of stimulus checks in the amount of $1,400. This figure would bring the stimulus check relief fund to $2,000 per person, including the previous $600 checks approved by the 116th Congress, which is a milestone Trump strongly encouraged GOP Republicans to approve.

There have been more than 23 million confirmed cases of the virus in the United States, and more than 388,000 deaths since the pandemic started.

Edward Lawrence contributed to this report.

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