United Airlines is joining American Airlines in adding a disabled exception to its mask policy in order to comply with a new federal mandate.
United Airlines Adds Exception To Mask Policy For Disabled Passengers
U.S. airlines, including United Airlines, support the new federal mask mandate overall primarily because it will put more teeth in pre-flight, boarding, and onboard announcements.
In addition to the mask requirements, you will now hear the following:
Failure to comply with the law is a federal offense and may result in denial of service and removal from the airport or aircraft, as well as monetary fines of up to $35,000.
In a memo reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly, United reminds staff that exceptions will be limited and those who have been vaccinated must still wear a facial covering onboard:
- Exceptions do not apply to people for whom mask wearing is merely difficult or inconvenient.
- Those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are not exempt from the mask requirement.
- Masks must be worn between bites and sips while eating and drinking.
What the memo does not state is what those exceptions are. For that, I reviewed another memo sent to flight attendants which outlines the exception process for “extraordinary circumstances” onboard. In part, it notes:
All customers (and employees) over the age of 2 must wear a face covering onboard. Extraordinary circumstances are thoroughly reviewed by a panel of experts – including internal and external medical experts, legal and security – and follow a strict approval process.
From time to time, customers contact United before a flight or at the airport to discuss rare, sensitive situations that may make them exempt from our onboard mask requirement. While we’ll make every effort to brief you of these situations in advance of boarding, there may be a situation where this information isn’t relayed to you in a timely manner.
If, prior to departure, a customer states that they have an approved exemption while onboard, please consult with the Customer Service Representative (CSR) and the Captain using the huddle process for resolution.
Takeaway: United Airlines will add a much more complicated exception process than on American Airlines for customers with disabilities who wish to travel without a mask.
Requests will be escalated to a board, where a decision will be made. Live and Let’s Fly asked United for more details on the process, but spokesperson declined to elaborate.
United will now make an exception to its no-mask-no-fly policy for passengers with disabilities. However, unlike American Airlines, it will not be as easy as a doctor’s note and negative COVID-19 test.
Live and Let’s Fly argued against the federal mask mandate, insisting it would create more loopholes to avoid mask compliance. We believe the news from American Airlines and United Airlines today validates our viewpoint.
image: United Airlines