United Airlines Kicks Off Passenger For Wearing Too Much Personal Protective Equipment

Two brothers were kicked off a United Airlines flight departing Newark on January 23 because they were wearing too much personal protective equipment, not too little. Usually we hear about anti-maskers. And Dr. Fauci even recommends wearing two masks. But United wasn’t having any of the masks these passengers wore.

“Is it goofy? Absolutely. Is it something you want to be seen in public? Not exactly,” said Joseph, who was traveling for work because his company is helping with security for the Super Bowl. “But to have that peace of mind for me and my family, I’m willing to take some stares to get down there safely.”

Several United employees stopped them before their 11 a.m. departure to Florida, and offered them cheap surgical-style masks. To mollify the airline they put these masks over their Narwall masks. A flight attendant stopped them on the jetway. They wanted the protection of their masks, and were at a standstill. They were kicked off the flight.

Their carry on bags were gate checked on the full flight (United has never beleived in seat blocking during the pandemic). They were forced to wait 7 hours for the next flight.

The airline, for its part, says the mask has a vent which isn’t acceptable – although passengers are permitted to wear surgical masks over vented masks, which is what was ultimately happening here. And the manufacturer explains there’s no vent in any case.

“Narwall was specifically designed to filter all exhale, to have no vents, to have no direct exhaust valve, which of course would endanger the people around the wearer potentially,” Rattray said. “I had the idea to put a super high-grade filter to filter your exhale and your inhale to keep you and everyone safe.”

A United spokesperson also says “there’s concerns about hearing impairment with a mask like that,” the passengers might not be able to hear instructions in the event of an emergency, which strikes me as post-hoc justification.

The brothers “he inquired with other airlines about whether his mask would be an acceptable face covering and rebooked his return flight home” on a different carrier.

United, like several other carriers, has policies not just on what you have to wear but also on what you cannot wear, although these policies are often not widely published. Alaska Airlines kicked off a 75 year old passenger with a terminal illness over too much personal protective equipment. American Airlines bans body tents and pods, personal air purifiers and ozone generators.

Body Pod in Delta First Class, Credit: Under The Weather

Rather than banning extra protective gear I wonder if an airline might promote safety and generate ancillary revenue at the same time if they sold these items themselves. Then again, like a movie theater, they might still wish to ban customers from bringing their own in order to prevent lower cost competition for sales. I’m old enough to remember when it was against airline rules to use your own headphones to watch the inflight movie…

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. @gene
    you’re kidding yourself if you think this insanity will be over in a couple months. The disease may be whipped but the overreach and overreaction is here to stay.

  2. This article is very misleading. They were not kicked off for “too much” PPE, they were kicked off for not wearing the correct PPE… Fake news

  3. This disease ain’t whipped. Ask that family in Nebraska that came down with COVID, recovered, and then got COVID worse the second time. Mutations will keep COVID and vaccinations playing a cat and mouse game for some time to come. I’m not suggesting it will take 200 years for eradication, like it did for small pox, but any belief that The New Messiah in the White House will cast this devil out in a few months is ill founded.

  4. @Aloha – “there you go again” as a famous Republican used to say (of course, he wouldn’t fight in today’s ultra right wing “Republican” mainstream, he would be a lib’l outcast).

    No Democrat thinks Biden is the New Messiah – he’s just a guy who works hard (vs. pissing his time away tweeting and enjoying “executive time”) and has gotten national vaccinations up to 1.3MM/day (and climbing), despite being left with a sh!t sandwich and no plan by ol 45.

    Only the Right is consumed by a False Idol.

  5. I think it’s ridiculous that United Airlines won’t allow people to take extra precautions, yet the CEO of United is pushing for mandatory vacations for the employees? It’s a silly world out there!

  6. Maybe I’m missing something, but why didn’t they just wear a mask under the apparatus? It would have been visible to the FA’s…

  7. I have a Narwall mask. I wear it to do all my necessary shopping, and even to the doctor’s office. I hear a snicker every once in a while, but I’ve had way more people ask me about it than laugh. It is safer than wearing a N95 mask with a face shield. The inflow comes through a N95 type filter on the top, and you exhale through another N95 type filter in front of the mouth. You are only breathing filtered air and your exhaled air is filtered. Not being able to hear announcements is total BS, I have absolutely no problem hearing anything as your ears are not covered. The United employees were just showing their ignorance. If I had to get on an airplane, I would only board wearing my Narwall mask.

  8. Reminds me of scene from “Waiting for Guffman” –

    Corky St. Clair: Why are you whispering? I’m right here, you know?
    – Lloyd Miller: [raising voice considerably] Oh I’m sorry, do you want me to talk louder? Because I think that that it would be…
    – Corky St. Clair: Well now it’s too loud!

  9. What would be nice if a private pilot’s license with 150-200 hours of logbook time were required for high school completion. Something that turns flying into a skill like driving that you do for yourself.

  10. The last flights I were on probably 1/4 the pax had no mask, noses sticking out, or had them off for hours as they pretended to sip their drink.

    I’m not a big mask wearer, but when you’re locked in a tiny aluminum tube for hours, mask surely help.

  11. United doesn’t like passengers wearing real PPE cause it reminds others of how COVID is actually dangerous.

  12. There is a difference between protection and safety hazard. Stop pranking airlines and stay home.
    And good job keeping everyone safe, United. Your efforts are appreciated.

  13. I was on this UA flight with these clowns on Jan 23 from Newark to Tampa. This article does not properly depict what happened. These guys weren’t willing to engage in respectful discussion with airline employees and they had no regard for those of us standing behind them in line while they argued. I felt so bad for the UA staff-They were merely trying to keep everyone safe and follow their rules while having to argue with these guys.
    Newsflash: No, the gate agent cannot be charged with checking every single form of facial protection every passenger dreams up.
    You need to comply with airline rules in order to fly.
    Next time, why don’t you drive if you’re actually so concerned? Or maybe you were actually trying to be in the news?

  14. By OSHA law, you must wear the minimum PPE required but if the person believes m
    a higher level of protection is needed it can not be denied. OSHA would crack the company emoting me over the head for this. I bet OSHA. will not do a thing to them. 2 sets of lawd

  15. Trump said this would all be over with , it is a flu Spring 2020. My Mother said she knows no one who has had covid, why wear a mask. She goes to the food court at the mall every week and takes off her plastic face guard to talk to her friends. She had no smell taste and bumps on her feet. said it was the flu Two weeks later she tested positive for the Antibody. She knows someone who has had it now.

  16. As with any subject discussed by whatevers who know it all, a bottom line exists strongly to curb this deadly and mutating virus. For those with integrity wearing a surg protects those around them. If those AROUND THEM wore even surgs, BOTH would be protected to a helpful degree. An N95 is to protect both people. But a valved N95 still protects. Just wear a 2 or 3 level surg over it and everyone is better protected. It’s really rather simple. But it’s the self centered and uneducated folks we’re Still trying to educate and get involved.There is NO room for selfish stupid people in the fight. The innocent clearly have less chance to survive. And no matter their ages, they are NO LESS IMPORTANT than anyone else. And perhaps they are MORE valuable than those who still can’t figure it out and do the right thing for all of us.

  17. >he’s just a guy who works hard<
    Droolin' Joe, the Plagiarizer, hasn't worked an honest day in his 46 yrs on the taxpayers' teat.

  18. Right this isn’t going to be over in a few months. You already have Fauci and certain networks talking about the next strain which will be even worse. I’m all for being safe but enough is enough. How much longer are we going to let these people dictate what we can do.

  19. @Kathy – since you were there, saw everything and hold the absolute truth, please provide the real story instead of calling them “clowns.’

  20. I flew months ago. 4 hour flight.
    Young guy next to me let his mask be down under his nose the whole flight on the way out. Back was better, but I would think people should quarantine after an air flight rather than what state they were in.
    We were all safe and healthy, family,, people on both ends thank goodness.
    Hope have the vaccine before I fly again.

  21. UA-NYC your still left wing#$%^ idiot
    Who knows what virus or ??the Chinese will release for their friend in the WH next????

  22. I’d rather overdue it than under due it when it comes to protecting myself and others. I wore an OHSA approved mask that protects one from asbestos. It has hepa filters and you look like an ant in them. I also took a swimming noodle and attached it horizontally to myself. If a person came by and hit the noodle they were too close. I should have worn 2 noodle, protecting both sides of myself. That way I would have had safe spacing 4′ around me. People giggled about my look but most said it was a great idea cause you have all these nonbelievers of covid who go without wearing a mask correctly or giving social distancing to those who want social distancing important. So since my mask is Federally approved if they throw me off a flight a law suit will follow. I have cancer and would not be flying but my oldest Sister has the beginnings of dementia and I want to see her before she can’t recognize me. So if overdoing it is against the law, start enforcing the law to mask correctly, including your nose. My friend just flew and was amazed that over half the passengers on her flight did not have their noses covered. They can’t throw the passengers off the plane mid flight but they should have law enforcement at the gate to ticket the noncompliant passengers reported. Just call all the seat numbers after landing of the law breakers and have them disembark first. They would find Officers at the end of the walk out tunnel, get a hefty ticket and learn a lesson hopefully.

  23. Just because I don’t appreciate people trying to board an aircraft with unapproved face coverings certainly does not indicate for whom I voted. These guys were trying to make a point and knew they weren’t going to be permitted to fly as the airline has clearly outlined their policy on their website. Holding up a flight while repeatedly asking the same question of UA employees doesn’t win you any friends. Do I think other types of masks should be allowed? Possibly. But you can’t expect a gate agent to make that judgement, My point is this just wasn’t the right way to go about achieving their goal, unless they were doing this as a publicity stunt.

  24. Your heading is wrong. If it’s unapproved, it’s not cleared by other factors.

    Various head gears have (vented) like gills that’s not good for anyone.

  25. @ Kathy , thank you. Yes there are rules to what you can wear, also keep in mind it has to be something with quick egress incase of a decompression. Phil don’t be a clown too.

  26. What a useless blog. Everyone just stick to frequent miler, no dumb drama inducing articles that have nothing to do with miles and points.

  27. I can’t stand how stupid all of you are.
    Utter idiots, every single one of you.
    All of you reading this.
    All of you who reply.
    All of you who don’t.

    All Idiots who don’t give a shit about anything but your own egos.

    Your ego of pretending you ‘care’ about others, your ego of pretending you know /anything/ about what you’re bickering about.

    You’re all idiot turds with no education on any if this, not because the information isn’t out there because you’re too lazy and self serving and most of all ignorant to actually seek it out and comprehend it. You give your idiot voices to the cruelest short-sighted people in the world and then bitch endlessly while they destroy the natural world and all shreds of human decency left on the rock as if YOU aren’t the real problem the real cause of suffering the world around.

    You are all idiots. All of you. Every single person that gets offended from this is an idiot. Because even when you argue you’re not only an idiot would respond because this entire comment is only directed at idiots.

    Worthless idiots the entire lot of you.

  28. Masks are useless. Flying has become onerous. With threats from the airlines to permanently ban you, and now the TSA it simply isn’t worth it.
    I had hope that people might lay off the blue pills, but not looking hopeful these days.

  29. King Cuomo requires that you have multiple Covid tests and quarantine even if you have been fully vaccinated. So basically, you cannot fly from and back to NY with being tested up the kazoo.

    PPE and vaccination or not it doesn’t matter as NYS will fine you if your are not tested per the King’s rules.

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