United Airlines Rolls Out A Process To Skip Wearing A Mask On Board

Federal mask rules mean more loopholes to avoid wearing a mask inflight, not more masks. That can’t be called an unintended consequence because it’s been obvious for months this would be the result.

The CDC was never going to require masks for those with a medical challenge that prevents a passenger from wearing one. And once that exemption is in place, there’s a process that passengers can follow to avoid wearing a mask while flying – whereas there were no exceptions permitted by American, Southwest, or United Airlines before the federal mask rule went into effect.

American Airlines has publicly outlined its mask-avoidance procedure of a medical note provided in advance and a negative Covid-19 test.

United Airlines has shared that it now has a mask avoidance process, too although they haven’t put out a press release on it. Those who are looking to skip mask wearing for medical reasons should contact United directly in advance.

According to an internal United Airlines memo cited by Live and Let’s Fly,

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.

Remember that conservative activists have recommended claiming medical exemptions to mask rules. It won’t be tough to find a doctor willing to write a ‘no mask’ note to give to an airline. Everyone in California had a doctor’s note for medical marijuana 20 years ago…

This guy brought his mask protest to United in December after being banned by American.

I’m in favor of mask wearing (as long as it’s a good mask). I was against a federal mask rule because it was going to lead to fewer masks worn, and more exceptions. Very few readers believed me but this seemed obvious and new airline mask rule exceptions to conform to the federal mask mandate bear this out. Thanks Joe Biden, and thanks airlines and airline unions who lobbied to take the mask enforcement onus off of them and put it into the lap of the TSA.

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. Nothing will ever change the “rule” that a person who deliberately risks other people’s lives, in this case by not wearing a mask in an enclosed space, isn’t 100% asshole.

  2. KG, what do you think you know about infection that experts don’t know. I haven’t seen your name in the scientific press. Or do you not believe science? If you don’t like the mask, you’re going to live the ventilator.

  3. Brady, when Dr. Fauci said there was no reason to walk around wearing a mask last March 8th, there were 541 Covid-19 cases in ALL of the US, so at that point, it was probably unnecessary. But things changed, didn’t they? Or are medical experts not allowed to revise their opinions when new information comes to light and the course of a disease changes? The medical establishment has never claimed that masks offer 100% protection to the wearer or others, but they do offer protection, especially when used along other protective measures like hand washing and distancing. This isn’t hard to understand.

  4. I’d you’re “pro mask” I’m 100% anti you. If you wear a mask you are supporting the communist / socialist idea for America and I can say without a doubt I will not support you. If you are a business in favor of masks than I will help put you out of business

  5. Masks will continue to offer protection. I for one as well as many other non assholes will continue to wear masks within an enclosed area until we’re no longer suffering a pandemic.

  6. I am immuno suppressed. I have Agent Orange Disease. I contracted the disease serving in Vietnam . I’m a transplant recipients, diabetic, asthmatic and have heart disease. Diabetes and heart disease result from Agent Orange. I gave this country 22.5 years of my life. I wear a mask for me! All around me benefit from my caution as do I. Only a selfish inconsiderate want to be controversial my on non-conforming idiot that believes they’re right won’t wear a mask. I hope you die happy now the less!

  7. @K3Po – The ADA doesn’t apply to airlines. The Air Carrier Accessibility Act does. This is why the rules are slightly different. Regardless the airlines knew they were breaking the law with “no exemption” policies, they just didn’t care. Thus I’m surprised they’re complying now.

    @Virginia – this is an awful idea. Masks restrict airflow. Drugging someone with a drug that slows breathing and then masking, well that’s asking for trouble.

  8. If a person is dotted next to me without a mask – I will ask that they be re – sited as I am old and they will be putting me at risk. If UA wants to do this they better arrange a special seating area that is walled off. STUPID IDEA.

  9. Thanks for protecting those who work in the trenches all day long as well as the flying public. Good job!

  10. @K athe – legally you are the one that must move. This isnt anything new with disability accommodation.

  11. I believe it should be ok without a mask if you have a doctor’s and you test is negative. Some people have panic attacks because they can’t breathe in a mask..This is America still right?

  12. They can at the very least wear a face shield which does not hinder breathing in the slightest. I also think they all should be on one plane together, much like smokers should all be forced to be together in casinos, i.e., smoking rooms not non-smoking rooms. Afterall, smokers and non-maskers have the same mindset: ” It’s all about me and my wants. I could care less about other people”s health or my own.”

  13. How about the fact that there are people ( the majority) who don’t want to fly with non mask wearers. Where are their rights? It’s a fact that people with known exposure and symptomatic have disregarded the safety of others and gotten on planes anyway(we’ve had them as covid positive patients in The ICU)

  14. Think those people would refuse the oxygen mask that drops down in an emergency situation? I bet not. This is an emergency. Americans are dying by the 100 thousands. If you can’t wear a mask( won’t)you don’t need the fly unless it’s for an emergency. Stay home if you are going to be so selfish

  15. If all the mask-haters, and anti-vaxxers fly on United, the rest of us will happily and safely fly on Delta.

  16. @Melody Smith – you do realize DL was the one airline that previously allowed exemptions.

  17. @flyerco False. https://www.delta.com/us/en/travel-update-center/ways-we-are-keeping-you-safe/onboard-services#:~:text=Delta%20customers%20and%20employees%20are,airport%20and%20during%20public%20transit.
    “Mask Exemptions

    Customers with unique mask requirements should bring the appropriate face covering that best meets their needs and CDC specifications. Customers with a disability who cannot wear a mask for reasons related to their individual disability are strongly encouraged to reconsider travel or should be prepared to complete a ‘Clearance-to-Fly’ process prior to departure at the airport. If you are a customer with a disability who requires this exemption, please arrive early to complete the process during check-in and avoid missing your flight – this process can take over one hour. Please arrive early to allow additional time. Mask exemptions only apply for travel on flights operated by Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection and do not exempt customers from any requirements that may be imposed by governments, including local, state or foreign countries, (at the origin or destination) or from requirements on other airlines.

    Any false claims of a disability to obtain an exemption from wearing a mask or face covering may result in the suspension of travel privileges on any Delta flight for the duration of the mask/face covering requirement and may be reported to appropriate government authorities.

    To learn about Delta Partner carrier face mask policies, click here.

    It’s fine. The idiots will continue to fly UA/AA and people with class will keep flying DL. 🙂

  18. Wow… I’m stunned/shocked… Especially about the breadth of the exemptions. I’ll fly other airlines with tighter masking procedures.

  19. I can’t help but suspect that these “exemptions” are aimed at attracting / appeasing more first and business class flyers or loyalty frequent flyers… Probably at the expense of flight attendants and other non-vaccinated flyers. Current research shows vaccinated persons may likely still be able to transmit active viruses to others after an exposure, while avoiding illness themselves.

  20. This mask wearing mania needs to be obliterated. I live and work in Asian country where most people wear masks, especially during winter, and they continue to get sick. I know that firsthand because I have lived there for 25 years. Medical clinics are always busy even with most people wearing masks. Wearing masks does more harm than good. Also, if you are so convinced that wearing a mask protects you from getting ill, then by all means, go ahead and wear one, two, or five, just like Freak Fauci has been suggesting, but you have no right to force me to wear one. It is my right not to wear a mask. Those people who have been suffering or dying from catching this virus or any other virus, such as the flu, (remember that one?), are those with morbidities and even comorbidities. What do you expect of a population that is over 40% obese? Instead forcing healthy people to wear masks, you should worry about your own health by eating healthy, ditching the junk food, stopping smoking, not drinking too much, and exercising. Until you are able to take responsibility of your own health, then you stay home and put on a mask, and let the rest of us, the healthy ones, live free and happy. Don’t hold me or other people responsible for your poor health.

  21. I put my mask on and realized that I was like Jesus. I was everyones savior. I started tearing up. Then I realized that it was my peppermint breath mint breath diverted into my eyes because of my mask. Sadly, reality struck and I remembered that it was all just a new world order plot to control the masses.

  22. @Andrew Gibson – you do realize you state I was wrong then go on to prove me correct. What you post has been DL policy to handle exemptions since back in July.

  23. @LibertyMan – I don’t know where you get your stats on deaths, but that simply isn’t true. Yes comorbidities do increase risk of death, they always do. However, even young perfectly healthly people die and not as some small part of overall deaths.

    As for masks, we can argue both sides. Although I do agree with using them. Yes, People will get sick,the mask doesn’t protect against contact spread. A mask though can help, in that less virus will be expelled/ breathed in. No one claims it is 100% effective, but it helps reduce spread. Part of what makes this different from regular flu, is the ease of spread/infection.

    As for your claims of “rights”, your rights are always subject to limitations when it effects others health and safety. Smoking is prohibited in most places, not because it’s bad for you, but it’s bad for others. Satanic ritual murder isn’t allowed. Again because it effects others unwillingly.

  24. Every one who ca. Wear a mask should. My mom has dementia and requires reminders to put it on and most time she complies. I use the exception not because I expect to not have it on her but for the times she slides it off and I don’t notice the attendants are at least aware and with a gentle reminder she’ll put it back on. I just don’t want it to seem deliberate

  25. I am sorry but as a retired nurse, these masks do not work. I know I know what about physicians wearing them in surgery. Here is how that works the physicians scrubs, dones sterile gloves and a tech in the OR puts on his mask. If at any point during a surgery he touches that mask another one much be put on.

    So if you put on a mask and run around the airport, going to the bathroom, buying something at the newsstand there and touch your mask, eat food it has been compromised and is no good. When you board the plane and they bring you water during the flight and you touch your mask to slide it down to take a sip of water your mask is compromised.

    Wise up little sheppies.

  26. @RLH1964 – sounds like mask is working perfectly. The mask is catching the virus. Just because you should be washing hands and replacing mask after touching doesn’t change that. You replace/wash hands because they come in contact with virus on the mask.

    This lack of understanding makes me question if really nurse. Your whole point was they don’t work, but then you describe how they do.

  27. @RLH1964 The reason surgeons can’t touch the mask is that it contaminates the surgeon. The mask may be sterile when it comes out of the package, but not after it fits on the surgeon, as they don’t scrub their faces. After they have sterile hands, they have to keep their hands up in the air, so if they touch their face, their hands are no longer sterile

    The masks have worked well to protect first line medical providers, particularly when interacting with Covid patients, along with properly fitted masks. The biggest problem with the airline mask policy is that just about anything that doesn’t show the mouth and nose is considered a mask, and passengers are allowed to remove it to eat. This really turns it into mask theater. Either the masks are needed, or they aren’t. Either they should be N95 masks which are for and not removed for the flight, or the air circulation prevents transmission and the masks aren’t necessary.

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