Paradigm shift in the US COVID fight: United leads the way?

As the COVID-19 situation remains clouded in a shroud of uncertainty, the airlines across the world continue to expand their strategies against the virus in hopes to keep their services both low-risk and available. Initiative and dedicated execution are required to steer a damaged boat through the rough waters, and as United and Delta Airlines (DAL) continue to improve their policies, other airlines seem to have taken an easier road by looking at their competitors for a course of action.

United Airlines released a statement at 11 AM on July 22, informing the public that, starting July 24, failure to comply with their new masks policy in operating airports would result in a refusal or, in more extreme cases, a ban from the carrier’s services. The changes to the requirements also extend to the exemption policy, only allowing ‘no-masks’ for children under the age of two.

Hours later, 7 PM July 22 and 1:22 AM July 23 respectively, American and Southwest Airlines (LUV) released virtually identical statements regarding the expanded face covering requirements:

  1. Customers would be required to wear facemasks at all times when entering and before leaving the airport. Only exceptions would be made to children below the age of two and very brief exceptions to eating, drinking and taking medicine.

  2. Customers are encouraged to bring their own masks, but in the case that they do not, airlines would provide them with new ones.

  3. The carrier company would not transport individuals failing to comply with the regulations.

In their statements, both the Southwest and American quoted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but public health guidance for international and cruise travel was not updated since May 3, 2020.

However, even as the COVID-19 cases in the US are on a continuous rise, there remains considerable interest in the re-opening of international flights. Such an opportunity could potentially soften the financial mayhem that is rampant in the industry and airlines must be ready and up to health standards if they wish to navigate the ongoing crisis successfully.

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