Afraid to fly with unmasked passengers? Call your airline

DALLAS (AP) – Airlines say they offer options – including reimbursement in some cases – for people who are worried about flying now that other passengers are not required to wear face masks.

However, the airlines do not provide many details. Customers can be left behind by workers in the airline’s customer service centers.

Many people who will be flying in the next few weeks bought their tickets before a federal judge in Florida on Monday rejected the claim to wear a mask at airports and during flights. This requirement, designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, was to expire on 3 May anyway.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said his airline will be flexible towards people who have a weak immune system or are concerned about mask-optional flying for any other reason.

“We’re working with these customers … to find another option, give them a credit, or if they just never want to fly again, (we’re) actually willing to give them a refund,” Kirby told NBC.

A United spokesman said customers, with the exception of those with the lowest “basic economy” rates, could delay their travel plans for any reason at no extra charge. He said passengers with special circumstances should call the airline’s customer service number.

American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said Thursday that the airline has not made many requests for reimbursement yet.

“But just as we do in all of these events, we look at our policies and … ask them to get in touch with our reservation office and we will make sure we accommodate them appropriately,” Isom said.

A US spokeswoman pointed to the airline’s policy of allowing refunds for refundable tickets – they usually cost more – and credit for the value of unused non-refundable tickets. However, individuals who have purchased “basic economy” tickets since April 1 are not entitled to a refund or change of their ticket.

A spokesman for Delta Air Lines said customers wishing to cancel a trip should contact the airline. Decisions on how to handle these requests are made on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Spirit and Frontier did not respond to inquiries.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice said it would appeal the Florida judge’s decision to crack down on the mask mandate, which was introduced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and enforced by the Transportation Security Administration.

But as of late Friday afternoon, the administration had still not asked any court for an emergency stay of the Florida ruling. Legal experts said the White House mostly seemed interested in appealing the Florida ruling to prevent it from becoming a precedent that could limit the CDC’s power to impose pandemic-related measures in the future.

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