Zach Griff reports on a change United has made to its Contract of Carriage, the adhesion terms that apply to your purchase of a ticket.
According to United’s contract with its customers (bolding mine),
Passengers who are incapable of completing a flight safely, without requiring extraordinary medical assistance during the flight, and Passengers who appear to have symptoms of or have a communicable disease (or there is reason to believe there was exposure to a communicable disease) or other condition that could pose a direct threat to the health or safety of themselves or others on the flight, or who refuse a medical screening for such disease or condition, whether suspected or actual.
The airline added that they can deny you boarding if they have reason to believe you’ve been exposed to the novel coronavirus. In practice this decision will be exercised in their sole judgment.
Moreover they can deny you boarding if they merely suspect you have coronavirus, or if they want you to obtain a test showing you do not have the virus and you decline. What will lead them to suspect someone may have the ‘rona? It could be temperature checks. It could be data shared via an app or the government in the future. It could be information about known exposures, including on a prior flight.
- These terms make sense. Anyone believed a risk to spread an infectious disease to other passengers shouldn’t be allowed into a metal tube.
- The airline should be able to set terms for whom they’ll do business with.
- The mere ‘suspicion’ element here raises some concern about how individual employees will exercise judgment on a given flight, or what indications may be used in the future.
- False positives are one issue with testing that aren’t as much of a problem at a societal level as they are in an individual case where the wrong result is produced
United can’t impose rule changes retroactively on tickets already purchased. Though they may do so in the moment and any redress is likely only to come after the fact.
Consider this part of the new normal that we’re figuring out – we do not know what is going to happen in practice but United is updating its rules to allow them to take action based on what sort of testing or screening occurs.