It's best to keep it on... US carriers are in mood to be forgiving of passengers who refuse to have the masks on. Image Credit: AP

Texas: American Airlines Group Inc. removed a passenger who refused to wear a face covering and banned him from taking flights in the future, capping a week in which US carriers vowed to step up enforcement of mask use.

Brandon Straka won't be allowed to fly on American until face coverings are no longer required, the company said. Straka, a conservative activist with about 400,000 followers on Twitter, posted a video Wednesday saying he had been kicked off his flight for not wearing a mask. He also accused American's employees of intimidating him.

Straka's ban validates a warning US airlines made this week when they vowed increased vigilance in requiring mask use amid mounting concerns about new COVID-19 infections.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. pledged to ban passengers flouting the rules, which exempt small children and people with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing face coverings.

In its statement, American said it was "committed to protecting the safety and well-being" of customers and employees.

"We expect customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so," the Texas-based airline said. "Restricting travel is a step we take very seriously, and it will only occur after a comprehensive review of the facts of an incident."

According to American, Straka boarded his flight from New York's LaGuardia airport with a face covering but later took it off. When asked whether he had a medical condition, he replied that he didn't, American said. Later, "he gave our team a different answer," the company said.

Flying back to a breakeven
US airline Delta hopes to reach its break-even point by next spring as rising demand prompts the carrier to continue increasing flying capacity, CEO Ed Bastian said.

"We are in the process of recovery, there's no doubt about it," Bastian said. "There are clear signs the momentum we have is meaningful and continuing to build."

The Atlanta-based airline plans to add around 1,000 flights a day to its schedule in July and again in August.

US airlines that had slashed flying have begun to put more planes in the sky as states lift stay-at-home orders and other limits on activity. Delta expects to operate about 30 per cent of its year-earlier flying schedule by the end of September.

"We're at 15 per cent of revenues today and we hope to get to 30 per cent over the next two or three months, keeping costs at that 50 per cent level," Bastian said. "I would imagine by the spring next year, we'd be at a point where we're breakeven."

The US Labor Day holiday in early September will be "an important milestone and pivot point" because it's typically when business travel starts to build after summer, Bastian said.