CALGARY -- Calgary-based WestJet is introducing new rules that could see passengers who refuse to wear a mask denied boarding or banned from travelling with the airline for a year.

The airline's zero-tolerance mask policy, which goes into effect Sept. 1, outlines the potential repercussions for those who elect not to wear a mask.

According to the airline, non-compliant passengers may be prevented from boarding aircrafts. For those who remove their masks during a flight, the violation could result in the return of the aircraft to the gate and the offending passenger will be removed. A one-year ban from travel with WestJet could also be imposed.

An exception to the policy has been made for passengers under the age of two as well as passengers with existing health concerns who have a certified medical note indicating the need for an exemption.

Should a passenger violate the policy mid-flight, WestJet has a three-step process for addressing the issue that includes:

  • A request from the cabin crew asking the passenger to wear their mask
  • A warning from the cabin crew stating that masks are required and compliance is mandatory
  • A notice to the passenger indicating that they will be placed on a no-fly list for 12 months due to non-compliance

"Canadian travellers and all of our WestJet Group employees are counting on us to keep them safe and it is our utmost priority to do so," said Ed Sims, president and CEO of The WestJet Group, in a statement. "Masks are mandated by our regulator and the vast majority of our guests are happy to keep themselves and each other safe by complying. This enhanced policy provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don’t. Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines."

Transport Canada made face masks mandatory on commercial flights in April in an effort to prevent the potential spread of the novel coronavirus during the pandemic.