The new federal mandate on masks requires airlines to make exceptions for passengers with disabilities who cannot keep a mask on. In implementing this new federal exemption, United Airlines will require those passengers to present negative COVID-19 PCR tests.
United Airlines Requires Negative COVID-19 Test For Passengers With Disabilities Who Cannot Wear A Mask
United is taking the guesswork out of disability exemptions to its mask policy by requiring advance notice requirements, testing, and implementing a designation to the passenger PNR so that airport staff and flight crews are clear that a valid exemption exists. For example, on the United Airlines app for flight attendants, the exempt passenger’s seat assignment will be indicated by a mask logo with a line through it.
In a memo to flight attendants, United notes:
We consider each specific exemption case carefully and medical personnel is involved with making this decision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order on January 29, 2021, requiring the wearing of masks by travelers to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. That same order exempts children under two years of age and persons with disabilities who cannot wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask, because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As such, United is required by law to allow exemptions as defined by CDC. This process United has in place reviews requests for exemptions from the mask requirement, which are granted under very limited circumstances. Such passengers are also required to follow other procedures to help mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
Those “other procedures” includes a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
How To Request A Disability Exemption To United Airlines Mask Requirement
Passengers who wish to be exempted from the mask requirement on disability grounds must fill out this form (.pdf) and e-mail it to MaskException@united.com).
Exemption requests should be made seven days before travel. If travel is booked within seven days of travel, approval is not guaranteed prior to flight time.
The negative PCR test must have been taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure and a separate test is required for the return trip unless also within 72 hours of travel.
Re-seating may required:
- United may require customers seeking an exemption or their travelling party to move to alternate seats in the cabin and/or change their itinerary to less-full flights to allow for greater social distancing from other customers on board, if possible. United will advise regarding the alternatives, and changes to flights under these circumstances will be made at no additional cost.
Exemptions are granted on a per-trip basis. A passenger will not be able to secure an ongoing exemption. United requires you submit your medical records for its review.
United Airlines has procedures in place for passengers who claim a disability to avoid wearing masks. That includes a negative PCR COVID-19 test.