United: Passengers who refuse to wear masks won't be allowed to fly

United Airlines announced Monday that passengers who refuse to wear masks will be put on an internal travel restriction list and not be allowed on future flights.

The airline said the policy will start Thursday and last for a minimum of 60 days.

A comprehensive incident review will be conducted to determine how long passengers who do not cover their faces on flights will be on the internal travel restriction list, it added. 

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United said the policy is being put in place to protect passengers and crew, noting that the “overwhelming majority of passengers” are already covering their faces.

The new policy allows for some passengers to be exempted, including “individuals who have a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering,” “those who cannot put on or remove a face covering themselves” and small children. All other travelers are required to wear the face covering unless they are eating and drinking, United noted.

If a flight attendant notices or is informed of a nonexempt passenger not wearing a mask, they will let the person know face coverings are mandatory and offer to provide them with a mask. If the traveler does not comply, the flight attendant will file a report of the incident, and a security team will investigate at the plane’s destination. 

"Every reputable health 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," United's chief customer officer, Toby Enqvist, said in a statement.

“Today's announcement is an unmistakable signal that we're prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew,” he added. 

The airline industry, which has taken a huge hit during the coronavirus pandemic, has been criticized for not giving specific instructions about face coverings to passengers.

The industry lobbying organization Airlines for America said Monday that several of its airlines would impose "appropriate consequences for passengers who are found to be in noncompliance of the airline's face covering policy up to and including suspension of flying privileges on that airline."

The lobbying organization said Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines will tighten their policies on wearing masks.