New United Coronavirus Travel Restriction Starts Tuesday, Are You Ready To Fly?

United is instituting a new requirement for passengers to fly starting Tuesday, June 9. Everyone traveling on United will be required to complete a health screening as part of the check-in process, and confirm that they’re willing to wear a mask.

Zach Honig reported on this new process and the questions that items United customers will have to acknowledge in order to fly.

  • That passengers must wear masks on board
  • That they haven’t received a COVID-19 diagnosis in the past 21 days
  • They haven’t had any of the following symptoms in the past 14 days: 100.4 degree temperature or higher; cough (excluding from pre-existing conditions); shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (excluding from pre-existing conditions); chills; muscle pain; sore throat; recent loss of smell or taste
  • And they haven’t been denied boarding by another airline “due to a medical screening for a communicable disease in the last 14 days.”
  • Or had close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days

Anyone who can’t make all of these attestations must reschedule their trip.

Now I have to wonder who out there has potential symptoms of COVID-19 and is traveling. And who made the decision to travel with these symptoms but will also answer United’s questions honestly knowing that it would mean they cannot travel.

The theory here has to be that it just doesn’t occur to people that they may be sick and have symptoms of the novel coronavirus, because they haven’t been paying attention over the past four months. But when they go to check in using the United app it’ll be like a V-8 commercial.

Now I get a sore throat all the time from my allergies. I have one today. No fever, no fatigue, no loss of taste or smell. I don’t think I can ever fly and say I haven’t had a (somewhat) sore throat in 14 days.

And if I did have the virus, and recovered where I’m no longer infectious based on CDC guidelines, testing, and physician guidance, but 21 days hadn’t passed since a positive test I wouldn’t be permitted to fly.

I don’t feel safer because of these screening questions, but I suppose some people may feel United is doing something to keep them safe and they’re more willing to travel as a result. So the Straussian in me approves.

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, 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. Agree with Adam. There has to be something deep in the legalese that says if you check the box to be willing to wear a mask, then show up without one or try to take it off, they will deny you boarding and you have no recourse.

  2. This is like the minimum wage security people at i European airports who ask you if you have packed your own luggage and kept it with you at all times. Has anyone ever answered no?

  3. Well we have to remove masks to eat and drink. I’m supposed to fly Polaris round trip to ATH in August. I wonder if these rules will preclude meals?

  4. Health theater to match the security theater. And the blind masses will comply as directed. Wont you?

  5. @Jen – as I posted a week or two ago in the United thread, your Polaris flight EWR-ATH is not operating this summer. Suggest you look for an alternative routing via FRA/MUC.

  6. So glad I left this dumb-@$$ airline, even with 500K+ lifetime miles, Munoz and Kirby took a bad airline and truly made it one of the worst. Good luck and riddance!

  7. When will they hand out bathroom passes?

    Or will they ask who we voted for and only let us fly if we voted for the right party?

    Glad I never fly United. Sounds miserable.

  8. It’s all to prepare for the impending onslaught of lawsuits. Nothing else. And yes, I have broken open my duty free on flights before I landed. And on a few occasions my wife packed my bag.

  9. They should test anyone boarding a plane to a destination that require testing when you get there. Last thing I want to do is take a flight and have some covidiot test positive because they were trying to slip through, when we get there and then be forced to spend a week or two in quarantine.

  10. If all airport employees are required to have their temperature taken at the beginning of their shift, then passengers should at least fill out a health form prior to their flight… lots of complaining and the typical “it’s-all-about-me attitude. Stay home otherwise 🙂

  11. You are required to wear a mask, except your not since it won’t be enforced and you need to answer a questionnaire that can’t be verified. So basically other than an extra 2 minutes answering the questions, nothing has changed.

    If you are terrified that you’ll be infected and drop dead from the coronas, you need to stay locked down in your home until a vaccine is created – might want to stock up on TP, it’s likely to be a long wait.

  12. I think the main point of this process is to get passengers to agree to wear the mask before they enter the aircraft.

  13. @Bill makes the best point. What happens in “testing upon arrival” locations if someone else who was on the flight does turn up positive? Surely that positive case must quarantine, but what about everyone else on the flight? Their tests would most likely not turn up positive yet, so theoretically they would not be stopped at the moment, but then what? Will they be rounded up? I assume they will at a minimum be told to self-quarantine. What if someone on the flight who tests negative on arrival develops symptoms within a few days? I understand that the likelihood of contracting the disease on the airplane is slim, but a lot of yes/no questions aren’t going to stop someone who is positive and asymptomatic from flying and perhaps transmitting the disease somewhere between their arrival at airport A and walking out of airport B; nor would it prevent someone without visible symptoms from lying.

    I know some will always react, “If you’re worried about it you can stay home while we get on with our lives.” And I want to get on with my life. I think I can fly safely and can avoid the virus. But I don’t necessarily trust everyone else on the plane and if a single positive test on arrival will bring consequences for everybody, that changes the risk equations.

  14. @ Jen — Regardless of what flight is/isn’t operating on your route, bring your own food since you can be pretty sure you won’t be served anything worthy of mask removal on your flight. You are probably best off just bringing an Ambien or two and an eye mask.

  15. Everyone should at least get their temperature checked before going through security! Whether it’s COVID or some other ailment, I don’t want to be sitting near someone who is sick. Face the fact – prior to COVID, every day flying was like a day in the waiting room at Urgent Care. Compounded by the airlines ridiculous cancellation and change fees, plus the US “work at all cost” ethic, people were flying who should have stayed home.

  16. I got deathly ill after a 9 hour flight sitting a few seats over from someone coughing and hacking. Glad to see that wearing a mask is a requirement.

  17. I see now reason to believe “other than pre-existing conditions” wouldn’t apply to a sore throat too.

  18. Gary love your blog. ✈️
    You really should get that allergy/sore throat check out by a Specialist if no results go to a second physician for a second opinion. I assume you have had your tonsils checked. A neighbour of mine had years of similar scratchy sore throat symptoms and had cancer of the tonsils!

  19. “Now I get a sore throat all the time from my allergies.”
    Well Gary, this falls under the ‘pre-existing conditions’ you quote in your piece.
    Let’s face it; you just do not want to fly United!

  20. I often have a dry cough as it is a side effect from some blood pressure medication I take. But United’s mask requirement begs the question: What about people who have medical or psychological conditions that make it inadvisable to wear a mask? And what about someone who is willing to wear a mask (if reluctantly only to fly) and complies yet develops breathing problems mid flight due to wearing the mask?

  21. These are forced measures, but it is clear what it should be. But I honestly don’t know how it is possible to wear a mask on a very long flight. Even if the flight is three hours, it becomes extremely difficult. But I am glad that at least air traffic was allowed, so that we can fly out of our city. Thanks for the helpful article, good luck!

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