American Airlines emphasizes mask rules after photo of Texas senator emerges

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) asks a question during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Police Use of Force and Community Relations" in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 16, 2020. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American Airlines AAL.O said on Monday it had reached out to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz after a photo of the Texas Republican without a mask aboard an airplane was posted on a social media site.

Cruz, who chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Aviation and Space, is seen in the photo posted on Twitter holding a cup of coffee without wearing a mask aboard an airplane.

Fort Worth-based American, which requires all passengers to wear masks onboard but allows them to remove them while eating or drinking, said in a statement it had “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.”

A spokeswoman for Cruz, 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 added he removed his mask to drink and put it back on afterward.

The photo of Cruz was posted by an official with a Democratic party organization. Another social media account posted a photo of Cruz on a separate flight wearing a mask.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Tom Brown