Like most major air carriers, United Airlines now requires passengers to wear a face mask or face covering while traveling. We examine the United Airlines Face Mask Policy and answer all your Frequently Asked Questions. This post was recently updated following United’s revised and more stridently enforced face mask policy rules.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that wearing a face mask or face covering reduces the spread of the COVID-19 virus which is most often transmitted through respiratory droplets. These droplets are often emitted when a person sneezes, coughs or talks.
Most major airlines, including United, now require passengers to wear face masks when flying and even at the gate area or check-in counter, as a means to reduce the transmission of this virus.
As airlines struggle to find their new normal they’ve been focusing on the health and safety of employees and passengers. Most airlines have now implemented a variety of new safety measures.
These often include deeper cleanings, social distancing guidelines, use of electrostatic discharge machines to eliminate viruses and, of course, near universal use of face coverings.
Face masks and face coverings have now become a part of much of our daily lives and that has extended to air travel.
United Airlines’ health and safety program is known publicly as the CleanPlus program. This program reflects a commitment that United is making to its staff and passengers to mitigate the risks of contracting the virus while flying on their airline.
A key element of the CleanPlus program is the use of face masks. We examine the United Airlines Face Mask Policy and answer any frequently asked questions readers might have.
United Airlines Face Mask Policy
Unlike some airlines, United’s Face Mask policy is fairly comprehensive. Notably, it states:
“We’ll require travelers to wear face coverings starting May 4. We encourage you to bring your own face covering, but our customer service agents will be able to provide them if you don’t have one when you board our aircraft.”
Moreover, United elaborates quite a bit on their face mask policy giving travelers more clarity than other airlines (like Spirit, whose policy is scant on details).
Using the CDC guidelines as a basis for their face mask policy, United clarifies that people who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask will not be required to wear one, nor will small children or children who otherwise have difficulty keeping a mask on.
United’s face covering policy also accounts for the situations where a passenger has forgotten their mask. United will provide a mask to passengers at no cost should they require one. Simply see a United customer service agent to obtain one.
United does encourage passengers to bring their own mask to help save masks for those passengers who may need them (it’s probably a cost measure as well and airlines are shaving costs anywhere they can these days).
UPDATE TO UNITED’S FACE MASK POLICY
On June 15, 2020, United Airlines Updated it’s face mask policy by implementing harsher consequences for non-compliance. In our piece on the topic we highlight these changes including noting the following key point:
â¦starting on June 18, any passenger that does not comply when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list. Customers on this list will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review.â
On July 22, 2020, United Airlines further updated it’s face mask policy by requiring mask wearing at every location they control including gate agents, United clubs, and baggage claim areas. Moreover, they now require all children except those under the age of 2 to wear mask. Exemptions from the mask policy are intended to be rare.
FAQs about United’s Face Mask Policy
While airlines, passengers, the TSA and even airports are still figuring things out when it comes to these sorts of new travel safety restrictions things will be a bit inconsistent throughout your travel experience.
In fact, there are some questions still about the legality of an airline enforcing a mask policy. As such, travelers typically have lots of questions. We’ve tried to answer as many frequently asked questions about United’s face covering policies as we could.
Are face masks required on United flights?
Yes, as of May 4, 2020, passengers flying United Airlines are required to wear a face mask or appropriate face covering when traveling.
United defers to local regulations and restrictions regarding wearing your face mask in other parts of the airport including the gate area before boarding your flight, check-in counter or baggage claim, although doing so may be wise.
Does United Airlines enforce their Face Mask Policy?
Yes, United recently implemented new policies to enforce their face mask policy, however these measures would only likely affect future flights. See our detailed coverage of United’s enforcement model here.
Enforcement in general has been a complicated subject for airlines and flights attendants may not always be in the best position to enforce. Flight attendants roles tend to be more informational then enforcement anyway. Will an airline divert a flight if a passenger takes their mask of mid-flight (for reasons other than food)? Would a passenger be restricted from boarding? A flight from taking off? As fellow travel blogger Paddle Your Own Kanoo has noted, many airlines are instructing their crews NOT to enforce them.
Can I remove my face mask on a United Airlines flight?
Yes, United Airlines’ face mask policy acknowledges that travelers may remove their masks under certain circumstances including when eating or drinking.
United Airlines also notes that passengers must remove their face masks before applying the oxygen masks should the be needed.
Are there exceptions for the United Airlines Face Mask Policy?
Yes, United’s face mask policy notes that people who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask will not be required to wear one, nor will small children or children who otherwise have difficulty keeping a mask on. It is advisable to notify the gate agent or a flight attendant to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Will United give me a free face mask?
Yes, United Airlines will provide passengers who’s forgotten their mask one free of charge. Simply ask a customer service agent. United does, however, encourage passengers to bring their own face masks to help preserve masks for those who may not have one.
Can I bring my own face mask on a United flight?
Yes, United passengers can bring their own face masks or face coverings on United flights and, in fact, this is recommended and preferred by the airline.
See our guide on where to buy face masks and face coverings for travel here. You can also make your own face mask and we’ve assembled a list of DIY mask instructions here.
Thanks and be safe out there no matter what airline you fly
Until such time as the government implements formal rules requiring face masks on flights there will be some inconsistency on how airline face mask policies are instituted, applied and enforced. Clearly, a standard rule for all airlines would make things simpler, but until then expect some challenges.
Face coverings, temperature checks, perhaps bringing a travel thermometer with you and more may simply become the new normal for travel – at least for the foreseeable future. Settle in, get comfortable, and try to make the most of it – we all are.
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