United says passengers who don't wear masks will be put on 'internal travel restriction list'

United Airlines announced Monday that it will strengthen mandatory mask policies to further hinder the spread of COVID-19 and help continue to keep passengers and crew safe, according to a news release.

The company said that while the majority of their passengers are complying with the mandatory policy, starting on June 18, any passenger that does not comply when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list.

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Customers on the list will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review, the news release states.

"Every reputable heath institution says wearing a mask is one of the most effective things people can do to protect others from contracting COVID-19, especially in places like an aircraft where social distancing is a challenge," said United's Chief Customer Officer, Toby Enqvist.

"We have been requiring our customers to wear masks onboard United aircraft since May 4 and we have been pleased that the overwhelming majority of passengers readily comply with our policy. Today's announcement is an unmistakable signal that we're prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew," Enqvist added.

Under the new policy, if flight attendants notice or are informed of a customer onboard who is not wearing a face covering and that passenger does not fall within an exception, flight attendants are to notify the customer of the airline's policies.

They will also offer a mask, if needed.

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"If the customer continues to be non-compliant, flight attendants will do their best to de-escalate the situation, again inform the customer of United's policy, and provide the passenger with an In-Flight Mask policy reminder card," the statement reads.  

"If a customer continues to not comply, the flight attendant will file a report of the incident, which will initiate a formal review process. Any final decision or actions regarding a customer's future flight benefits will not occur onboard but instead take place after the flight has reached its destination and the security team has investigated the incident," according to United's stricter policy.

"U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules," said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. "Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees."

A simple conversation can produce thousands of oral fluid droplets that can be dispersed to a fairly large radius and can linger in the air for up to 14 minutes, and in some instances even longer, researchers suggested in a recent study that may help answer key questions regarding the high transmissibility of the novel coronavirus.

According to the report, which was first published in the peer-reviewed journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” in May, it is commonly known that respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 can spread through droplets that are produced from coughing or sneezing.

With social distancing still the best known weapon for containing the the virus, several studies have been conducted regarding the transmission of respiratory droplets. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that COVID-19 is known to spread through droplets in the air.

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The findings from the studies have prompted the CDC to recommended that people keep a minimum of 6 feet apart from someone who may be sick with COVID-19. The CDC has also urged Americans to wear masks while in public.

The CDC released its coronavirus safety guidelines June 12, along with a second set for organizing and attending big gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, protests and political rallies as states reopen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.In the guidance, the CDC encourages people to call ahead to restaurants and nail salons to make sure staff are wearing face coverings. The CDC's director, Dr. Robert Redfield, called his agency's new guidelines “common sense suggestions.”

State or local governments may want to reimpose stricter measures if new outbreaks occur, but that's a call for them to make, CDC officials said.

The CDC offers a list of questions people should consider before going out, and some things to think about in particular situations. The guidelines also repeated earlier advice about wearing face coverings, especially if it’s difficult to keep at least 6 feet away from other people. The guidelines also encourage washing hands for 20 seconds and staying home as much as possible.

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