United’s Threat To Ban Passengers Who Refuse To Wear Masks Is “Toothless”

Yesterday airline lobby shop Airlines For America announced that customer mask requirements would actually become requirements. United quickly sent out a press release that they’d even potentially add passengers to a ‘do not fly’ list if they refused to wear masks. American Airlines announced that they, too, may “deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering.”

In a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, on the same day American told flight attendants to try to de-escalate situations where passengers wouoldn’t wear masks, but not to enforce anything. American, though, says they’ll communicate the new policy to flight crew ‘this week,’ it’s supposedly in effect today but flight attendants don’t know it.

Meanwhile, United won’t get law enforcement involved or divert a flight. They won’t even threaten the ban to get compliance from the customer. Instead, the flight attendant can report the customer after the flight for an investigation. Brian Sumers has details of the policy in practice,

Though when it was announced last night, headlines all over the internet declared that United was getting serious about the inflight mask rule, emphasizing that they’d ban passengers who didn’t wear masks, airline analyst Henry Harteveldt concludes that United’s policy is “toothless.”

If they’re not even going to mention the possibility of a ban when a customer refuses to wear a mask on board, they’re not actually serious about getting passengers to wear masks inflight.

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. What would you suggest?
    Calling security? Getting dragged off? Chokehold? Taser?
    Divert a flight?
    Just how much conflict would you think is appropriate to get someone to comply?

  2. This will all fall apart with the first lawsuit. A person with a medical condition that is unable to wear a mask and is “banned” will have a field day. Imagine the press when United punishes a passenger for having a medical condition….

  3. Exactly. But lawsuits take time. In the meantime it is permissible to remove the mask to eat and drink so it is an option to bring your own food and drink on board and take your sweet time eating and drinking.

  4. What if airlines would refuse boarding for connecting flights to passengers who don’t comply? Traveling from DSM to PWM and don’t want to wear a mask? Hope you like finishing your trip
    In ORD or EWR!

    Sure – this wouldn’t affect passengers who don’t connect, but if someone shows themselves incapable of following the rules on their first segment, why should they be trusted for the next?

  5. The really sad thing about this is the simple fact is if everyone would just put on their big boy pants
    and wear a mask the risk of spread would be greatly reduced, period.
    Amazing that it’s even an issue. The number of angry self centered narcissists that exist in this country is pretty pathetic. What the ” virus is overblown, save the economy first and it’s my right to not wear a mask” folks fail to realize is they are the ones slowing the economic recovery by making it more difficult to safely reopen the country.

  6. While I consider masks to be nothing more then “Safety Theater” (IE: The illusion of safety to benefit the sheeple) I have no problem tossing one on when I’m in a store, or someplace in public. It don’t bother me. Even on a short flight – Ok I can deal with it.

    However, when your talking 6 hours or more in a mask? That’s a bit rough. I recently bought some heavy objects at a store(like 100lbs+ or so) and carrying them to my car with a mask on was just not pleasant. I’m pretty fit, and even I had to take it off and catch my breath. I imagine I could throw a bandanna over my face like some Wild West bank robber and be in “compliance” – But still. Not to mention that said bandanna is equivalent to not wearing a mask at all.

    Moral: If you’re scared of catching the Corona, just stay home.

  7. Well there you have it, thanks Manger you are making my point.
    The medical community overwhelming agrees that everyone wearing a mask would reduce spread.
    No one is saying it’s fullproof just that it will help. Probably by around 80%. People much more qualified then you or I are saying so. I believe them….but there is always people that think they know better then the experts based on some crazy conspiracy theory they read on the internet.
    It’s why opening up the country for business will take even longer then it has to. People with your perspective.

  8. I will NEVER comply! Those masks are dangerous to me and if they want to ban me…. go right ahead…. they can pay off my mortgage for me.

  9. Let’s see, it’s all about me, I don’t listen to the experts and I’m gonna sue!
    I wonder who you’re gonna vote vote for Larry?! 🙂
    Sorry I couldn’t resist….while the reality is Trump is the only president that could so thoroughly
    divide our country in a time of crisis and he has politicized a national emergency, I actually think we need two points of view. If you’re gonna stereotype…. the far left would have us cowering under our sheets till next year and the far right would have done nothing and let a few hundred thousand more die. We have to find a middle ground. My take is that would be careful reopening knowing full well there will be more cases and prepare as best we can for the inevitable.
    One of the most important and easy steps we all can do to reduce the spread is to wear a mask when around a lot of other people…..take out the politics and narcissism and it’s simple common sense and common courtesy….

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