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United Informs Employees Our Airline Is No Longer Enforcing Federal Mask Mandate

Date: April 19, 2022

All of us were caught off guard by yesterday afternoon’s announcement vacating the federal mask mandate in transportation. The announcement introduced a significant level of ambiguity not only for passengers but also for front line employees. In response to the announcement, AFA International President issued a statement calling for calm and patience while additional legal analysis was conducted in order to get a better understanding of not only the meaning of the announcement, but also to develop a thoughtful approach to next steps.

Much to our surprise, United released a message to employees late in the day yesterday advising employees that our airline will no longer be enforcing the Federal Mask mandate. The speed with which this change was implemented and its execution on a company-wide basis has created a great deal of uncertainly and concern for many. We understand that, for many, this change is well overdue while, for others, there remains significant health and safety concerns especially in light of the CDC’s continued guidance recommending the wearing of masks on public transportation. While masks are no longer required for all domestic flights, there is much less clarity for travel to many international cities and the lack of a reference resource only adds to the uncertainty.

While United plans to closely monitor the situation for additional changes, at this point, we know the following:

  • You are no longer required to wear a mask nor are you required to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public. Having said this, United has also established a clear expectation consistent with the Working Together Guidelines. That is, we are expected to respect the individual decisions of those employees and customers who choose to continue wearing masks.
  • Passengers and fellow crewmembers may choose to continue to wear masks onboard. If a passenger or crewmember asks you for a mask, to the extent a supply remains available in the customer kit, please continue to provide it.
  • Unless on an international flight where masking is required, please discontinue all announcements and refrain from informing passengers about a requirement to wear a mask.
  • Effective immediately, mask compliance cards are not to be distributed on any flights.
  • While Irregular Operations Reports (IORs) for mask compliance issues are no longer required, please continue to follow SOPs and reporting procedures associated with any other passenger non-compliance issues.

It goes without saying that this abrupt change is creating uncertainty and, for some crew and passengers alike, the implementation of the change will create anxiety. And, Flight Attendants are once again on the front line of the change expected to ensure a smooth transition that reassures the traveling public in the absence of concrete information. It’s fair to say that the lack of information on this change will make this difficult. As more information becomes available, we will be sure to get that out via our Union communication channels.

Be reassured that your ability to continue to mask in the environment of the aircraft cabin will be respected. Each one of us may have different reasons for concern and we must be comfortable in our decisions to address those concerns. If you need someone to talk to, our peer professionals from Employee Assistance/Professional Standards are always available to support us. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance and reassurance at 800 424 2406.

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