The $3 trillion stimulus bill introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday would require flight attendants and airline passengers to wear masks for remainder of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, a bill drafted by a group of Senate Democrats would require airlines to offer refunds to all customers who cancel their travel during the pandemic, regardless of whether the carrier operates their flight. 

Large U.S. airlines have announced mandatory mask policies. However, according to media reports this week, carriers have instructed flight attendants not to strictly enforce those policies.  The Heroes Act would take such policies out of airlines’ hands and require passengers and flight attendants to wear masks until the end of the national Covid-19 emergency declaration. In addition, the bill would require all aircraft to be cleaned and sanitized in accordance with CDC guidance.  

The bill would also provide a measure of additional protection to airline workers. At present, airlines that have received federal payroll assistance under the Cares Act aren’t allowed to lay off, furlough or cut employee pay rates through September. The Heroes Act would block such payroll cuts until airlines have depleted all of the federal financial assistance they have received. 

Major U.S. airlines expect to run smaller operations that require fewer employees well beyond September. 

A separate Senate bill introduced Wednesday would require airlines to refund any passenger who decides to cancel a booking during the Covid-19 pandemic. The requirement would apply to airline customers who have already received vouchers since March 1, as long as those vouchers have not yet been used. 

The measure would go far beyond current rules, which require airlines to offer refunds only for canceled flights and only for customers who had not canceled a booking prior to the flight being canceled. 

The law would last until 180 days after the expiration Covid-19 national emergency.

While consumer advocates have been lobbying for such a change, airlines have pushed back, saying that they simply can’t afford to do it with passenger loads off more than 90% and monthly cash burn in the U.S airline industry tallying approximately $10 billion. 

The bill is sponsored by Democratic senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kamala Harris of California.


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