Some U.S. airlines will begin welcoming back passengers who were previously banned for violating COVID-19 mask policies.
“In most cases, the passengers who were added to our internal refuse list as a result of mask non-compliance will be permitted to resume travel at some point in time,” American Airlines Chief Corporate and Government Affairs Officer Nate Gatten said on a quarterly earnings call.
Gatten continued to say: “In cases where an incident may have started with face mask non-compliance and escalated into anything involving something more serious, certainly assault or an assault on one of our team members or customers, those passengers are going to remain on our permanent internal refuse list and will never be allowed to travel with us again.”
Some airlines like Delta airlines will be taking a case-by-case approach as well.
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“With masks now optional, Delta will restore flight privileges for customers on the mask non-compliance no-fly list only after each case is reviewed and each customer demonstrates an understanding of their expected behavior when flying with us,” Delta Airlines Spokesperson Morgan Durrant said.
Delta has approximately 2,000 passengers and United about 1,000 on their mask related no-fly list.
Alaska and Southwest airlines said they won’t be welcoming back any banned passengers.
Flight crews are torn about the decision to welcome previously banned passengers back onboard.
“So, I'm kind of torn with it because you know, folks need to get a second chance in life about a lot of different things, but if those individuals have put their hands on flight attendants, passengers’ other type of staff, I don't think they should be given that opportunity. Now if it was just that they mouthed off and different things like that, then maybe they’ve learned their lesson after they’ve paid a fine,” Flight Attendant Latifah Fields said.
Passengers NBC 7 spoke weighed in on the decision by some airlines to welcome back previously banned fliers.
“I agree they should let them back as long as nothing ended in physical altercations or anyone was hurt in the process because it is just a mask anyways overall,” Jacob Eastwood said.
Airlines have reported about 7,000 unruly passenger incidents to the FAA since the beginning of 2021 including 1,233 incidents so far in 2022.