Airlines allowing back passengers banned over mask refusal

Coronavirus

(NewsNation) —Delta, United and American airlines are allowing thousands of passengers previously banned from flying for refusing to wear masks to once again fly.

The announcement from the airlines comes on the tail of the Biden administration announcing earlier this week it would no longer enforce a federal mandate that required masks be worn on public transit and flights.

Delta’s CEO sent a letter to the attorney general earlier this year pushing for a national no fly-list. Yet, the CEOs are confident now that the passengers will return to their airlines.

“We have talked to them individually,” United CEO Scott Kirby told NBC on Thursday. “Many of them assure us that now that the mask mandate is off, everything is going to be fine, and I trust that the vast majority of them will.”

American Airlines Chief Government Affairs Officer Nate Gatten told reporters that “in most cases,” people who were banned over masks will be allowed back.

“In cases where an incident may have started with face mask noncompliance and escalated into anything involving something more serious — certainly an assault on one of our team members or customers — those passengers … will never be allowed to travel with us again,” Gatten said.

Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant said the airline will restore flying privileges after a case-by-case review and the customer’s understanding of expected behavior.

“Any further disregard for the policies that keep us all safe will result in placement on Delta’s permanent no-fly list,” he said.

NewsNation travel reporter Dayvee Sutton said on NewsNation “Prime” she believes the airlines are trying to restore a “bit of goodwill” by reversing the passenger bans.

“What it’s going to come down to is there is still tension between transport workers union, that’s the second-largest airline union in the U.S., they’re actually not happy with this because they want to airlines to consult with them before letting potentially dangerous people back on the planes,” Sutton said.

The FAA said it’s zero-tolerance policy for dealing with unruly passengers will remain in effect despite the airlines’ reversal on banned passengers. This in-turn might affect people’s wallets, Sutton said.

Fines up to $37,000 can be dished out to passengers that act unruly on planes and the FAA said it is a “promise” those fines will be handed out.

Southwest said a judge’s ruling that struck down the federal mandate won’t change its decision to bar an undisclosed number of passengers. Alaska Airlines said it will welcome back some of the passengers previously banned for not wearing a mask, but will continue barring those who were particularly unruly.

The FAA has logged more than 1,200 cases of unruly passengers on flights this year; 65% of the incidents were mask related. Since the start of 2021, airlines reported more than 7,000 incidents of unruly passengers on flights.

Several thousand passengers wound up on airline no-fly lists, although the exact number is unclear because American and Southwest have never disclosed how many people they banned.

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