At least three major U.S. airlines are preparing to welcome back unruly customers who were placed on no-fly lists for refusing to wear masks. The rapid reversal comes just days after a district judge struck down a federal mask mandate.
In a statement sent to Gizmodo, a United Airlines spokesperson acknowledged the reversal.
“On a case-by-case basis we will allow some customers who were previously banned for failing to comply with mask-related rules to fly United again—after ensuring their commitment to follow all crewmember instructions on board,” the spokesperson said. United had previously banned around 1,000 customers for violating mask requirements during the pandemic.
Delta will similarly welcome back some of its 2,000 banned customers, with a spokesperson telling the New York Times on Thursday it would “restore flight privileges for customers on the mask noncompliance no-fly list,” on a case by case basis. Passengers banned for behavior deemed more serious than refusing to wear a mask will remain banned. American Airlines Chief Government Affairs Officer Nate Gatten meanwhile told the Associated Press banned passengers would be allowed back on planes, “in most cases.”
The rapid reversal follows a year of record unrest amongst airline passengers. Over the course of the past year videos on social media have shown pissed off mask detractors getting into fist fights, spitting on other passengers, and being forced off planes. The Federal Aviation Administration initiated more than 1,000 investigations into unruly passengers and proposed $5 million in fines. By the numbers, last year set a record for unruly passenger behavior. The agency says 4,290 mask related incidents were reported to the agency last year. That accounts for 72% of all incidents reported to the FAA in 2021.
All of these airline reversals are made possible, in part, due to a Florida federal judge’s recent decision to strike down the CDC’s public transit masking order. Most major U.S. airlines dropped their mask requirements immediately, with some air captains announcing the decision mid flight.
It’s quickly becoming easier to point out which companies and institutions actually still require masks as opposed to those who don’t. That increasingly short list includes New York City subways and buses, Los Angeles transit, and most hospitals.