Airlines Offering Refunds to Passengers Concerned About Flying With Unmasked Travellers

Airlines Offering Refunds to Passengers Concerned About Flying With Unmasked Travellers
United Airlines passengers check in for flights at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, on April 19, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Airline passengers who are concerned about flying alongside unmasked people will now be offered refunds, among other things, after a federal judge last week struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) mask mandate on public transport.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told the “TODAY” show on April 21 that the airline will be flexible with customers who are immunocompromised and who do not want to fly alongside passengers who are not wearing face coverings.

“All of our customers should feel free to wear a mask and many of them are,” Kirby said. “For customers like that, that are immunocompromised or that have other concerns or issues … we are working with those customers if they really don’t want to fly to find them 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.”

A United spokesman told The Associated Press that customers, except those on the lowest-priced “basic economy” fares are able to delay their travel plans for any reason without having to pay an extra fee. The spokesman added that passengers with special circumstances should call the airline’s customer service number.

Meanwhile, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom told AP that while his company hasn’t yet seen many refund requests following the mask mandate removal, it is assessing its policies and asking passengers to contact the airline’s reservations office, adding that, “we will make sure that we accommodate them in an appropriate fashion.”

Passengers, almost all wearing masks, board an American Airlines flight to Charlotte, in New York City, on May 3, 2020. (Eleonore Sens/AFP via Getty Images)

An American Airlines spokeswoman pointed to the airline’s policy which allows refunds for refundable tickets and credit for the value of unused non-refundable tickets. But customers who have purchased a less pricey “basic economy” ticket since April 1 will not be entitled to a refund or ticket change, the spokeswoman explained.

A Delta Air Lines spokesman said customers who want to cancel their upcoming trip in light of the mask mandate removal need to get in touch with the airline, noting that decisions on how to handle these requests will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Elsewhere, Alaska Airlines said in a statement that it respects customers’ decision to continue wearing masks onboard flights.

The flight carrier said it would “work with guests on a case-by-case basis if they’re not comfortable flying,” according to Simple Flying, while Southwest Airlines will continue to allow all passengers to cancel tickets and receive flight credit instead.

The move by airlines comes after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled on April 18 that the CDC failed to justify its decision to impose the mandate and had exceeded its authority.

It also, inappropriately, did not seek public comment before imposing the order, Mizelle said, noting that public comment, in this case, is necessary because the mandate would “constrain their choices and actions via threats and civil and criminal penalties.”

The Justice Department announced on April 20 that it is appealing the ruling.

Elsewhere during Kirby’s interview with “TODAY,” the United CEO pointed to HEPA filters onboard flights that remove around 99.97 percent of particles in the air, noting that a plane is “literally one of the safest places you can be.”

Kirby added that he believes mask mandates on flights will be unlikely to come back anytime soon, saying that the Justice Department’s appeal “is mostly about jurisdiction.”

From The Epoch Times