<p>United Airlines is upping its flexibility for those who are concerned about flying </p>

United Airlines is upping its flexibility for those who are concerned about flying

Passengers worried about mask-free planes ‘could get a refund’, says United CEO

Airline boss says carrier will offer flexibility to those concerned about health risks

Lucy Thackray
Monday 25 April 2022 12:56
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In the wake of the US’s mask mandate for transport being ended, some airlines are saying they will offer refunds to customers who are concerned about health risks.

The nationwide mandate to wear masks on planes, trains and in airports - which had been in place since January 2021 - was overturned a week ago by District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida.

Some travellers who bought their plane tickets ahead of the mandate’s end - or with an expectation that airlines might continue to encourage mask-wearing - now feel uncomfortable flying, especially with unvaccinated children.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told NBC News: “We are working with those customers ... to find another option, give them a credit, or if they just don’t ever want to fly again, we are actually willing to give them a refund.”

He said that all United customers except those on the lowest level “basic economy” tickets can delay their journey with no extra fee, adding that they should call the customer service helpline to go through their options.

American Airlines’ CEO Robert Isom told Stuff.co.nz that the airline was not fielding many refund enquiries.

“But like we do in all these events, we are taking a look at our policies and ... asking them to get in touch with our reservations office, and we will make sure that we accommodate them in an appropriate fashion,” he said.

Delta also confirmed to Stuff that its staff may be able to refund travellers who are put off by the current situation with mask-free flying, saying it would be decided on a case by case basis.

The mask mandate had been set to expire on 3 May before Judge Kimball Mizelle overturned it.

On Thursday, the US Department of Justice said it was filing an appeal against the Judge’s order.

Since the mandate was overturned, a number of passengers have said they felt uncomfortable with their air travel experiences, with some reporting inflight “anti-mask-parties” or “mask-shaming” onboard.

“Hi @Delta. Your flight attendants greeting us ‘Would you like champagne? Let’s celebrate no more masks’ is not what I paid for,” tweeted irate customer Ify Ike last week.

Meanwhile, after the mask rule was announced to be over mid-flight, passenger Brooke Tansley tweeted: “Here we are, trapped in the sky with our eight-month-old unmasked baby (you can’t actually mask a baby that young) under the supposition that everyone who can be masked would be masked, and the flight 325 crew has taken our choices away from us. Very very angry about this.”

In the UK, masks are still required on most airlines’ routes - in March, Jet2 made masks optional on all its flights, while British Airways and easyJet announced they would allow customers to go mask-free on flights where both departure and destination country had dropped strict mask rules.

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