If You Claim A Mask Exemption On American Airlines You Get A Free Blocked Seat and Priority Boarding

Before President Biden’s executive order requiring masks on planes – which were already required – airlines including American, United and Southwest all had no exceptions. As I predicted, the government now permits exceptions for those with a medical excuse.

According to an internal American Airlines memo reviewed by View From The Wing,

The Federal Government issued a Security Directive requiring airlines to make exemptions for individuals with qualified disabilities that prevent them from safely wearing a mask, as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

And anyone claiming a mask exception on American now also gets the seat next to them empty and priority boarding, too. But they have to sit in the last row of their cabin, whether coach or business/first class. Here’s how the process works.

Once cleared for an exemption, American Airlines:

  • Assigns the passenger to the last row of the cabin, with the seat next to them empty (If the flight is completely full, agents should “make all efforts to accommodate the exempt customer on a flight with more space.”)
  • Has them pre-board
  • Briefs the flight crew on the passenger’s mask exemption

American recognizes that other passengers may not want to sit next to someone not wearing a mask. But seat blocking is an odd move for an airline that has claimed blocking seats doesn’t offer meaningful social distancing so didn’t provide it to customers the way that Southwest and Alaska did, and Delta still does.

This is going to create problems for flight attendants, too, because the back row of coach is where cabin crew sit (when seats are available). Maskless passengers will sit in those seats and leave other seats empty instead – seats flight attendants aren’t authorized to use. And currently flight attendants do a lot of sitting because there isn’t much service to offer.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why would you put them in the back of the cabin…their airflow will only travel forward based upon where their nose and mouth are. They should be placed at the front of the cabin, if at all.

    Are they going to let other passengers book another flight if they find themselves on a plane with the maskless passenger?

  2. Easy. There are pretty much no medical exemptions for wearing a mask.

    Any medical provider who writes one is breaching ethical standards.

  3. If they offered free bags with that it would be as good or better than my Gold status or Citi Cards 🙂

  4. we have become a society of “scammers” who can out scam the next person. I have been vaccinated but still strictly adhere to wearing a face mask and will continue to. This virus is not going away anytime soon folks so get use to it. We will be getting two annual shots one for the flu and one for Covid and its many variants.

  5. It’s remarkable that comments like Larry’s can continue to exist with over half a million Americans killed by COVID.

  6. @amazinglarry
    Hey man, you voted for the number one coward of them all! I wouldn’t sit next to anyone that would vote for the ChumpFool, mask or no mask.

  7. @Amazing Larry is amazing wrong.

    “without a useless mask on due to a virus with a 99.7% recovery rate, ”

    Covid-19 does not have a 99.7% recovery rate.

    It has a death rate of roughly 1.5% (28M cases, 500k deaths in the US). It has a recovery rate of not 98.5% but a non-death rate of 98.5%. Some of the non-death rate people need lung transplants (fortunately, not too many), some have months of unresolved symptoms, and some may develop fatal pulmonary fibrosis (scaring of the lungs) in the years to come. I do not want to get Covid-19.

    In fact, I encourage people to get the vaccine in any way they can, even dishonest ways as long as it’s not an illegal way.

  8. My wife and I have a trip in 1st/Business class scheduled for Japan in May. My wife’s sister lives there and has stage 4 lung cancer. Right now we are not permitted to even enter Japan. Don’t know if that will change by May. I am hesitant to fly with a mask as my lungs work at only 36% capacity. At night I sleep with oxygen fed into a c pap. I can for certain get a letter from my doctor with an exemption. I DO wear a mask and always have done so since Covid, but flying all the way to Japan without a mask would be a joy (if my wife would let me). So difficult for me to breath with a mask. It is like I am starving for oxygen. We are seniors and got our 2nd Moderna Covid shot on Feb. 18th. We are certainly ready to see our family and grand kids again, who are spread out coast to coast. Covid is real, we know, as we have had friends and relatives get sick and 2 died.

  9. @derek

    “It has a death rate of roughly 1.5% (28M cases, 500k deaths in the US).”

    No, that is just known cases. The CDC estimates the actual IFR is around 0.02% for those under 50 (that is two people per 10,000 who get it), and 0.50% for those under 69 (50 people per 10,000). For those over, it jumps to roughly 5%.

    Your mistake is that you think the case count is all known cases. The CDC understands that what we are seeing is not total case count. They go through this every year with flus – out of 50m people (give or take) that are estimated to have the flu each year, around 300k or so actually test positive for it. The CDC knows how to extrapolate the data to reach a realistic estimated number of infections.

    Please scroll down for the data:

  10. I’m kind of surprised the airlines were allowed to have no exemptions before. If it wasn’t an ADA violation then, it shouldn’t be now, and the airlines shouldn’t have to accommodate them. At least they require a doctor’s note, hopefully uploaded by the doctor themselves.

  11. @Jay
    The ADA does not extend to airline passengers. I see people complain about this all the time but the ADA has never regulated airline discrimination.

  12. Impressed. Several posts now without mentioning Ted Cruz and the personal trauma he has inflicted on you and everyone in Texas by flying his kids to Mexico. Either you’ve recovered quickly or CNN hasn’t provided you with a new “travel” angle to bring it up again? But I guess the day’s not over. (lol)

  13. @Al – seems you have TDS (Ted Delusion Syndrome)…no one else here felt the need to, as it is totally unrelated to this thread. But sycophant Rs gonna do what sycophant Rs do.

  14. Perfect, I wonder if my affliction will qualify. I’ve been diagnosed with “Functioning Brain Syndrome”. It’s an extremely rare condition with symptoms which include, ignoring the MSM and government “experts”, doing independent research and applying critical thought.

    My doctor advised that the only known cure involves, turning on the teevee and watching for many hours per day, making certain to wear a face diaper nonstop, including while you’re sleeping, to ignore all physical contact and get injected with a concoction of chemicals to make sure you avoid a virus that kills less than .05% of the population.

    Finally, he stated, if I wanted a guarantee of eradicating this disease, he exclaimed it was important to visit various travel websites and see what “normal” cognitive abilities look like.

  15. UA-NYC: You are the posterboy for TDS. You are not one to tell anyone they have any time of syndrome,

    Meanwhile – why is Covid such a concern when the death rate is so low?

    When will this tyranny end when the mentally weak use it as an excuse to lock up other people from doing what they normally do?

  16. @Amazing Larry
    You’re 100% right.

    I feel the same way about pants and showers.

    Dirty libs get pissed off because I don’t wear undies and don’t believe the lib lies that showers are for everyone’s health. Sure I leave streaks on the seats, BUT THAT IS MY RIGHT!

    And they say “you can’t smoke in my face because it’s unhealthy”!?!
    And “No shirt no shoes no service”!?!

    How DARE they dictate what I do. Laws are socialism, and SOCIALISM BAD!


  17. “If a passenger is too much of a scared little girl to sit near a person without a useless mask on due to a virus with a 99.7% recovery rate, they can stay home or drive. Problem solved.” Spoken like a true covidiot.

  18. Doesn’t seem like there will be much abuse for this. Have to submit medical documentation in advance, have testing done or proof of vaccination and now if it is approved you have to sit all the way in the last row and if the plane is full you won’t even be able to fly that flight.

  19. This is going to create problems for flight attendants, too, because the back row of coach is where cabin crew sit (when seats are available). Maskless passengers will sit in those seats and leave other seats empty instead – seats flight attendants aren’t authorized to use. And currently flight attendants do a lot of sitting because there isn’t much service to offer.

    Show me what policie states that FAs aren’t authorized to use the last row. Also, explain the definition of using the last row. I think there is a lot of information you are unaware of.
    If you ask my humble opinion, that statement sounds bitter, and I will make an educated guess. It is because FAs refuse to serve you alcoholic beverages in coach.

  20. They preboard them? So they are sitting in F or Elite seats and the entire plane has to walk past them? smh. Flying is a luxury, not a right. No mask, no fly.

  21. You all are being deceived. Covid is NOT a pandemic, but a PLANDEMIC brought to you by the government and the elites in order to depopulate the world. The “vaccine” is gene therapy tool, that’s why no one is held accountable when you are injured or die from the poison. Georgia Guidestones, Deagel reports 2017 population of 337 million to 2025 population 100 million….hmmm how do you think they’re going to accomplish that??? CDC and WHO are manipulating numbers bc they’re in on it. HGQ and Ivermectin, same thing used for flus cures coincidentally the flu bc that’s all it is!

  22. As a physician, I am apalled at the lack of “science” in the whole covid power grab. Masks do not filter out viruses. PCR tests over 35 amplification cycles are 97% false positives. The CDC sets 2 different standards for “covid positive,” less than 28 amplification cycles and requiring hospitalization if you have had a covid shot, 45 cycles and no symptoms if you have not had a shot. Get educated, chuck the propaganda. Follow the money trail to the Tr u th! Wake up sheeple!

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