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American Airlines reaches out to remind Sen. Ted Cruz about face mask use amid coronavirus pandemic

Dawn Gilbertson
Austin American-Statesman
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing to examine the Federal Communications Commission on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

Add U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to the list of airline passengers shamed for not wearing a mask on a flight.

The Texas Republican was spotted without a face covering on a Sunday flight on American Airlines, according to a post on Twitter. In the photo, Cruz, who was seated in first class on the regional jet operated by an American partner, was looking at his phone and holding a cup of coffee. A mask is not visible.

The photo was posted by Hosseh Enad, a marketing compliance associate at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He said in a subsequent tweet that he'd gotten it from an acquaintance. He also posted photos of an unmasked Cruz sitting in the gate area before the flight.

Cruz spokesperson Lauren Aronson said the senator wears a mask when traveling and practices social distancing where possible.

"Consistent with airline policy, he temporarily removes the mask while eating or drinking,'' she said in a statement. "Yesterday, during his flight he removed his mask to drink and put it back on afterward. We should all practice common sense measures to slow the spread of the virus.”

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said early Monday that the airline was looking into the situation.

“We are committed to protecting the health and safety of all those who fly with us, and we are reviewing the details of this matter,'' he said in a statement.

Late Monday, in the wake of calls on Twitter to #banTed and #banTedCruz from flying on American, Feinstein said the airline reached out to Cruz to remind him about the airline's face mask policy.

"As we do in all instances like these, we reviewed the details of the matter, and while our policy does not apply while eating or drinking, we have reached out to Sen. Cruz to affirm the importance of this policy as part of our commitment to protecting the health and safety of the traveling public,“ the statement said.

In June, American banned a passenger from future flights for refusing to wear a mask. United said it would revoke travel privileges of maskless travelers.

All U.S. airlines require passengers to wear masks during flight except when eating or drinking, but there is no federal mandate that airline crew members can cite when trying to enforce it. That's why airline executives, unions and consumer advocates are urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to mandate mask use on planes and at airports.

Last week, the spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, expressed concern about the "creative ways'' passengers are finding to to keep their masks off.