United Airlines Kicks Passenger Off A Flight For Wearing A Mask That’s Too Good

United Airlines reportedly kicked off a passenger over mask compliance. That’s hardly anything new in 2021. In fact, the number of unruly passenger complaint reported to the FAA this year – by far – involves masks. What makes this situation unique, though, is that the passenger was kicked off over a mask that affords too much protection.

Cloth masks which do very little to protect the wearer, and not much even in terms of source control, are permitted as a way to satisfy the mask mandate. Very few people wear properly-fitted N95 masks that provide real protection. One man though went farther than an N95, and wound up kicked off his United flight for it. One report says the passenger was banned.

The passenger who was kicked off was trying to protect himself from Covid-19, and subsequently got it. I don’t accept that he got it during travel when he wasn’t allowed to wear this mask however.

After all, the virus spreads so easily and is so prevalent in much of the country that even boosted individuals who have acted cautiously are coming down with cases. By some estimates at one point 10% of London was affected. It’s hard to imagine that more than that percentage of New Yorkers aren’t right now (given high positivity rates, subclinical cases, and asymptomatic infections).

So why wouldn’t United allow the mask?

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 publicized. 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…

(HT: @thetvlinsider)

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. On a recent flight from San Juan to Dallas one passenger came on with a complete respirator mask, with canisters and covering his entire face. It was quite colorful as well. Although a bit odd I did not find it offensive or intrusive. I am sorry but I can not accept United’s decision to remove this person. Shame on ya, United.

  2. It wasn’t against airline rules it was a federal regulation that they charged you for headphones. When my father explained to me as a young child that those regulations existed only because of lobbying by the airlines it was a real revelation!

  3. Also, your headline is at odds with the tweets that you linked to. Is this a story about someone who caught COVID on a flight after being ribs they couldn’t wear their better-than-average mask, or someone who got kicked off a flight?

  4. The real issue relates to whether the passenger would be able to put on an oxygen mask in a timely fashion and whether the passenger becomes a safety liability to himself. This issue has come up before and this explanation has been given before.

  5. They seem mostly afraid they cannot punch the passenger back in the face if they go Florida Man on them … I guess mask makers need a auto detach button like when Wakanda made the arm for the Winter Soldier, they knew where to push the button to detach it when they had to fight him.

  6. Enough with the nonsense!

    There should have never been ANY mask mandate at all! If you are a brainwashed, frightened little pansy then, by all means, wear a mask…. while the rest of us sane and rational folks will point at you and laugh.

  7. The guy wasn’t like the rest of us. An outcast, yet wanting to belong. Nice going United……….

  8. If you are so afraid of getting and transmitting the virus, why are you travelling in the first place?

  9. How absurd. Typical FA behavior – I will exert my authority and you will obey if you want to fly (regardless of logic, rules or procedures).

    If he wears that all the time then it is a good bet he caught covid on the plane. Omicron spreads like wildfire, without regard to vax status.

  10. The problem is that when you deal with the public, you try to make rules that cover everyone. Yet you constantly have to adjust for any given situation and there’s no policy that will cover everything. There are 320,000,000 people in the USA who all want to find a way around the rules.

  11. It appears that the CDC covered this issue in the original order that became effective February 1, 2021. Footnote 6 is clear. “Masks do not include face shields.” In addition, there’s a clear description of what is expected in a mask.

    It appears that the airline was enforcing the order, and nothing more.

  12. Regardless of where the pax eventually got Covid, this was a completely ridiculous enforcement on United’s part. Punishing customers who are desperate to stay safe is an asinine policy.
    At this point, it appears Americans are THE DUMBEST people in the world, if we refuse to allow people to protect themselves against a guaranteed virus, on the off-chance they might need an oxygen mask when 0.000001% passengers have ever needed oxygen mask…

  13. @Amazing Larry: you will be laughing at me from the roadside as I wave back from the air. Enjoy the staycation.

    SMH @Amazing Stupidity

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