While Americans are currently free to choose whether or not to wear masks in public, those who opt not to cover their face while traveling on United Airlines will face serious consequences.
The carrier, which boasts a major hub in Houston, announced that any passenger who does not comply with the mandatory mask policy when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list. Customers on this list will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined, pending a comprehensive incident review, according to a press release.
The move is in conjunction with a consortium of airlines — including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Southwest Airlines — dubbed Airlines for America.
United currently requires all passengers to wear a face covering onboard during the duration of its flights. That policy will be in effect for at least another 60 days, according to the airline. Exceptions to the policy extend only to flyers 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.
Here’s how the policy will be enforced real-time, according to United:
Currently, if a flight attendant notices or is informed of a customer onboard who is not wearing a face covering and that passenger does not fall within an exception, the flight attendant will inform the customer that face coverings are mandatory for all customers and crew on board. They will also offer to provide the customer with a mask if needed.
If the customer continues to be non-compliant, flight attendants will do their best to de-escalate the situation, again inform the customer of United’s policy, and provide the passenger with a mask policy reminder card.
If a customer continues to not comply, the flight attendant will file a report of the incident, which will initiate a formal review process. Decisions or actions regarding a customer's future flight benefits will be determined after the flight has reached its destination and a security team has investigated the incident.
“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, in a statement. “We have been requiring our customers to wear masks onboard United aircraft since May 4 and we have been pleased that the overwhelming majority of passengers readily comply with our policy. Today’s announcement is an unmistakable signal that we’re prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew.”
As CultureMap previously reported, United has instituted a pre-flight COVID-19 checklist for all travelers in order to ensure safe travel.