United Now Mandates Passengers Wear Masks in Airport or Get Banned From Flying

If you're flying, expect to be wearing a mask throughout the flying experience.

airline mask policy
Courtesy of United Airlines
Courtesy of United Airlines

United Airlines already requires passengers to don a mask during flights. On July 22, the airline announced it will now require passengers to keep their masks on throughout the airport, starting July 24, regardless of when the ticket was purchased. 

The announcement specified that United passengers must wear masks at gates, baggage claims, United customer service counters and kiosks, and inside the United Club. "If customers refuse to comply, they may be refused travel," the announcement said. Those customers may also be "banned from flying United at a minimum while the mask requirement is in place."

Children under two are the only people exempt from the new mask requirements. "If a passenger believes that there are extraordinary circumstances that warrant an exception, they should contact United or speak to a representative at the airport," the announcement states. That's a tighter regulation on who is allowed an exemption than the airline had in the past. 

"The most important thing any of us can do to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to simply wear a mask when we're around other people," United's CEO Scott Kirby said. "A mask is about protecting the safety of others, and I'm proud of the aggressive and proactive steps United Airlines has taken to ensure people are wearing a face covering in the airports where we operate and onboard the aircraft we fly."

Travelers will be reminded of the policy by signs throughout the airport. You can expect to hear reminders from employees and while purchasing tickets. If a passenger is not wearing a mask, they will be offered a free mask from a United employee. Those employees will also be subject to this new rule, reports USA Today.

The announcement comes as the US as a whole and many individual states have hit single-day records for new reported COVID-19 cases. Additionally, coronavirus-related deaths are on the rise again, with the seven-day average in the US at its highest point since early June, per the New York Times

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.