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United, Alaska Airlines to lift bans on some passengers...

Date: April 21, 2022

USA Today April 20, 2022 Eve Chen

United, Alaska Airlines to lift bans on some passengers who broke face mask

Some air travelers who broke mask rules earlier in the pandemic are getting a second chance in the skies.

At least two airlines are re-evaluating their lists of banned passengers now that the federal mask mandate has been voided for flights and other public transportation.

"On a case-by-case basis we will allow some customers who were previously banned for failing to comply with mask-related rules to fly United again – after ensuring their commitment to follow all crewmember instructions on board," United Airlines said in a statement. 

Roughly 1,000 United customers have been banned for breaking mask rules. Asked about the criteria for who gets to return and what repercussions may be in store for passengers who disobey flight crew again, United told USA TODAY, "We don’t have anything additional to share on this, as we do not share specifics of our internal security policies and procedures."

Alaska Airlines will also give some its grounded guests the green light. The airline banned more than 1,700 guests over mask violations across the pandemic. 

"Now that the mask policy has been overturned, guests who were banned solely for mask noncompliance will be allowed to purchase tickets on our flights," Alaska said in a statement via media relations manager Cailee Olson. "However, some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious will remain banned.”

Nearly two-thirds of the 1,233 unruly passenger incidents recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration this year have been related to face masks. Many of those may have resolved without escalating physically but still have resulted in bans or fines under the FAA's zero-tolerance policy, which became permanent Wednesday.

The FAA and Transportation Security Administration are also working to strip fined passengers of TSA PreCheck privileges, but at present, there is no national no-fly list for unruly passengers shared across airlines.

Southwest is sticking by its bans across the board, the airline said.

"Southwest's decisions to issue bans to unruly or disruptive passengers are unaffected by the court's recent decision," Southwest told USA TODAY. 

USA TODAY reached out to every major U.S. airline as well as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents Alaska and United flight attendants, to see where they stand on banned passengers and will update this story as details become available.

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