The airline said it will "take serious steps" to enforce the face-covering policy, including banning those who refuse from future flights

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 16, 2020 03:04 PM
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United Airlines is stepping up its enforcement of face mask rules amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The company — along with several other airlines — has made face coverings a requirement for passengers to help reduce the spread of the respiratory virus. But now United has detailed repercussions for those who refuse the policy. Among the consequences is a ban from all future United flights.

"While the overwhelming majority of passengers are complying with United's mandatory policy, starting on June 18, any passenger that does not comply when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list," the company said in a press release.

United's Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said the company has been "pleased" that the "overwhelming majority" of customers comply with the policy, however, they are committed to "take serious steps" to ensure everyone is protected on board.

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"Every reputable heath 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 Enqvist.

With the new strict policy, flight attendants will notify someone without a mask that they need to wear one, offering to provide one if they don't already have one. Staffers will "do their best to de-escalate the situation" if someone continually refuses.

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Flight attendants will file an incident report for those who still don't wear a face covering, which will be investigated and met with repercussions. That decision will be made after the trip is completed, according to United.

United — which said it expects the mask requirement to stay in place for the next 60 days at least — listed exceptions to the rule: "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."

The announcement came on Monday as Airlines for America (A4A) — an industry trade organization that represents several major airlines, like United, Delta, American, Southwest and JetBlue — issued a press release saying that their flight companies would be "vigorously enforcing face covering policies."

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"U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights," said Nicholas E. Calio, president and CEO of A4A. "Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules."

Added Calio: "Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees."

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