Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
United Airlines has pleaded with flight attendants and other employees not to “view mask-wearing as a political statement” in an internal memo sent on Tuesday and has issued a clear warning to anyone who refuses to wear a face mask or covering – you run the very real risk of being sacked. The warning came just hours before United said it would extend its mandatory face mask rules for passengers to all airport areas from July 24.
“At United, safety has always been our No. 1 priority. Our company, our reputation and our very lives depend on it when we fly. Combating COVID-19 is no exception: We will take every action possible to help prevent the spread of the virus and help keep our employees and our customers safe,” wrote United executive vice president Kate Gebo in Tuesday’s memo.
But Gebo conceded that despite United being one of the first airlines in the U.S. to mandate that both passengers and crew wear a face mask onboard its flights in May, “not everyone is wearing a mask when they should be.”
“So we’ve made the policy and consequences even more clear: If an employee violates this policy, they are subject to discipline up to and including termination,” Gebo warned.
United staffers are required to wear a mask in all public areas and in non-public areas where social distancing isn’t possible. Employees who believe they are medically exempt from wearing a mask must request assistance through United’s reasonable accommodation program. A face shield cannot be used instead of a face mask.
“If you believe that the risks from the pandemic are minimal to you, know this: Even if you experience a mild case of COVID-19, you can pass it along to someone else for whom the disease will turn out to be severe or fatal,” Gebo continued.
Employees with an otherwise clean disciplinary record will receive a final written warning on their new infraction of the tough new rules. A second infraction could result in immediate dismissal.
“As a leader at this company and as someone who cares very much about all of you, I urge you, please – don’t view mask wearing as a political statement. Don’t ignore the consequences of actions known to continue the spread of the disease,” Gebo concluded.
From July 24, United will require passengers to wear a face mask throughout their airport journey at over 360 airports around the world where the airline operate. The rules are in addition to any local regulations and passengers face being denied boarding and banned from future travel if they fail to comply with United’s strict policy.
Only children under the age of one will be exempt from wearing a mask while anyone else who believes there is “extraordinary circumstances that warrant an exception” (such as a medical condition) must first speak to an airline representative before trying to board a flight.
United already threatens to ban passengers who refuse to wear a mask onboard its flights but has allowed passengers to claim medical exemptions without providing any proof. That loophole has now been closed and non-compliant passengers risk being put on a no-fly list for at least as long as the mandatory face mask rules remain in place.
The airline’s chief executive, Scott Kirby said additional signage would remind passengers of the rules and employees would first offer a free face mask to anyone disobeying the policy. If a passenger continues to refuse to wear a face mask, a reminder card will be issued before boarding is denied.
Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.