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United Airlines readmits passengers banned over mask violations

Date: April 22, 2022

Announcements in the press this week suggest that United will be rescinding bans for certain passengers barred from our airline due to mask violations.  This decision, announced on the heels of a federal judge on Monday voiding federal mask mandates for airplanes and public transportation in the United States, came as a surprise to the Union as there were no prior discussions with the representative of United Flight Attendants providing information on how the decision was reached or the parameters that would be used in determining eligibility to return to the cabin. 

Further complicating this announcement is the fact that it was made during the same period where the nation’s top aviation official said he is making permanent a “zero tolerance” policy designed to curb unruly behavior on U.S. commercial aircraft. The zero-tolerance policy was the Federal Aviation Administration’s attempt to deal with a rise in reports of passengers acting out on flights.

In comments to the press, AFA International President Sara Nelson pointed out, "The timing of this is outrageous. The federal mask mandate has been lifted, but the pandemic is not over. We are charged with protecting everyone onboard. The public must trust that we have their safety as our first priority.

"The airlines need to slow down and consider all potential consequences of any policy changes. Not one banned passenger should be allowed back until there is a thorough discussion with unions, public health officials, and other stakeholders."

While the mask mandate is over, bringing formerly banned passengers back within 24 hours of lifting the mandate is no way to support Flight Attendants who are charged with the safety of the passengers in our care while ensuring confidence in our industry.

While it is no surprise to us that United planned to allow banned passengers to return to the skies at some point in the future, it is our view that this announcement is premature and without proper context for front line employees.  We will continue to engage United management to ensure our interests and those of the traveling public are addressed.

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