United Airlines says it has become the first “major US-based carrier” to require all of its flight attendants to wear face masks when on duty.
The news follows yesterday’s announcement by United that social distancing will be implemented on all flights by the end of April, including leaving middle seats empty.
The airline said that the decision was “in line with the most recent CDC recommendation that say wearing a cloth face covering is advisable when in public and when social distancing is difficult to maintain”.
It added that “We understand that many aspects of the flight attendant’s duties, both on and off the aircraft, can make practicing social distancing challenging, which is why this new initiative is so important”.
Cabin crew will be supplied with one mask each per duty day, and said that attendants may also choose to wear their own cloth mask.
Employees will be required to wear the face covering while on duty, although United notes that crew may need to remove the mask during taxi, takeoff, landing or crew rest, to perform responsibilities such as announcements.
It also notes that “In decompression situations, you will need to remove your face covering and don an oxygen mask” and says that those crew “unable to wear a face covering due to a documented medical condition” may be made exempt from the requirement.
United also notes that “In some stations, you may be encouraged to wear a face covering in the public areas of the terminal to comply with local mandates”.
The carrier has provided the following information for crew:
- Surgical masks are provided in the Inflight Customer Kit on board and provisioned for each flight attendant working the flight.
- Please only take one surgical mask for each work day (which can also be used for transport to/from layover points).
- The Inflight Customer kit is not replenished after every flight, so please leave the remaining masks on board for your fellow crewmembers.
- N95 masks should only be used for customers showing symptoms and for the flight attendants providing direct assistance; the remaining supply should be left onboard.
- You may also wear your own cloth face covering per the CDC guidance. Please make sure your mask fabric is a solid and neutral colour.
The final point is interesting, given the image below, which was provided to us by United today.
The communication – which was sent to 25,000 United flight attendants, also reminded staff that “According to the CDC, wearing a face covering alone will not prevent you from getting sick”, and provided the following CDC guidelines for disease prevention:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home while you are sick
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
- If you use a tissue, discard it right away and wash your hands
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces