In an interview with the “Today” show on NBC, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby announced that most airline customers who are not comfortable flying with people who are not wearing masks will be eligible to receive refunds.
After U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a federal judge in Florida, struck down the government’s mask mandate for public transit earlier this week, the Transportation Security Administration stopped enforcing the mandate.
The U.S. Department of Justice has appealed the decision, but while the appeal is in process, the mandate has been lifted and people are now free to travel via airplane without wearing masks.
During his interview, Kirby said that United Airlines has instituted a flexible policy which allows for refunds or flight credits to customers who do not want to fly after the mandate was struck down.
“All of our customers should feel free to wear a mask and many of them are,” Kirby said during the broadcast on Thursday. “For customers like that, that are immunocompromised or that have other concerns or issues, we are working with those customers if they really don’t want to fly.”
The United Airlines CEO also noted that he doesn’t believe that mask mandates will return to flights “any time in the foreseeable future,” and said that people will have to learn to live with COVID on a daily basis.
“COVID is going to be with us, it’s going to be endemic, and it’s going to be here a long time, but we’re learning to live with that, including in airports, in restaurants or at sporting events,” Kirby said.
A spokesperson for the airline has stated that customers can call the customer service line at (800) 864-8331 for more information on how to obtain a refund.
According to Insider, the spokesperson “did not specifically confirm a refund will be an option in all cases,” but emphasized the importance of the company’s “flexible change policy,” while adding that “most ticket types allow customers to apply their fare to travel through the end of 2023.”
The outlet noted that basic economy tickets do not allow changes, but are able to be “canceled for a fee with the remaining balance kept as flight credit.”
Customers are also able to upgrade a basic economy ticket to a standard economy ticket for a fee and then change it.