United CEO doubtful of mask mandate return ‘anytime in the foreseeable future’
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Thursday that he doesn’t believe the mask mandate on airlines will come back anytime soon after the Department of Justice (DOJ) appealed a ruling by a federal judge this week ending the federal transportation mask mandate.
“We were on the road, I think, to removing the masks even before the judge’s ruling,” Kirby said in an interview with “Today.” “This appeal is mostly about jurisdiction. I think it’s very unlikely the mask requirement is going to come back anytime in the foreseeable future.”
Kirby also remarked on how airplanes and airports are one of the safer places to be indoors due to the air filtration systems in both settings.
Asked about protecting immunocompromised people or those under five who can’t get vaccinated, Kirby said anyone at the airport or on United Airlines flights may wear a mask if they choose.
“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.”
The airline is offering those who are uncomfortable with flying due to the policy change a credit for the future, or a full refund for their trip.
The DOJ appealed the ruling from U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle on Wednesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested the move, saying it was not yet safe to pull the mandate.
United Airlines was one of multiple airlines who almost immediately rescinded its mask mandate once the ruling came down.
Along with rescinding the mask mandate, the airline is working on a case-by-case basis to bring back some customers who were previously banned from United Airlines for not complying with the mask mandate.
Kirby said the airline will allow those back whose only issue was with the mask mandate, saying he has been assured by some customers that they won’t be a problem with the mandate gone.
Delta Air Lines also announced Wednesday it would allow passengers who were previously banned for mask violations back on flights, but “only after each case is reviewed and each customer demonstrates an understanding of their expected behavior when flying with us.”