Starting on June 18, United passengers who refuse to wear masks in accordance with the company’s policies will be put on an internal travel restriction list. Anyone who ends up on the list “will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review,” the company stated.
The air carrier currently requires the majority of passengers to wear face coverings on all flights and keep the masks on for the duration of the journey, except when eating or drinking.
“The only exceptions to this policy are individuals who have a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering, those who cannot put on or remove a face covering themselves, and small children,” United said.
The company said that while the “overwhelming majority of passengers” are already covering their faces, United is seeking to increase the level of protection for crews and customers, calling the move “an unmistakable signal that we’re prepared to take serious steps” to enforce compliance.
United outlined procedures for the new policy, noting that if a flight attendant notices or is informed of a passenger who does not qualify for an exemption not wearing a mask, they will notify the passenger that face coverings are mandatory and offer to provide them with a mask. Refusal to comply with the request will result in the flight attendant filing an incident report, which will be followed by a security team review that will result in final decisions or actions on a customer’s future flight benefits.
“Every reputable health institution says wearing a mask is one of the most effective things people can do to protect others from contracting COVID-19, especially in places like an aircraft where social distancing is a challenge,” said United’s Chief Customer Officer, Toby Enqvist.
United was the first major U.S.-based carrier to order flight attendants to wear facial coverings on flights, a policy that was expanded in May to include all customers and employees on board a flight.
“Wearing a mask is a critical part of helping make air travel safer,” said Dr. James Merlino, chief clinical transformation officer at Cleveland Clinic. “The more people in a given space wearing masks, the fewer viral particles are making it into the space around them, decreasing exposure and risk.”
The airline industry’s trade organization Airlines for America said in a statement Monday that, out of concern for passenger and crew safety, its member carriers “will be vigorously enforcing face covering policies” and “putting rigor around rules requiring passengers and customer-facing employees to wear facial covering over their nose and mouth.”
The organization said that passengers who refuse to comply could have their flying privileges revoked.
“U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” said Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio.
The lobbying organization said Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines will implement more rigorous policies on facial coverings to stem the spread of the deadly bug.