Some airlines are offering credits, refunds to customers concerned about new mask rules

DALLAS >> Airlines say they are offering options — including refunds in some cases — for people worried about flying now that other passengers aren’t required to wear face masks.

However, the airlines do not provide many details. Customers could find themselves at the mercy of airline customer service center workers.

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

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said his airline would be flexible with people with weakened immune systems or who are worried about mask-optional flying for any other reason.

“We’re working with these customers … to find another option, give them credit, or if they just don’t want to fly ever again, (we’re) willing to give them a refund,” Kirby told NBC.

A United spokesperson said customers, except those on the cheapest “basic economy” fares, can delay their travel plans for any reason at no additional cost. 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 yet to send many refund requests.

“But as we do at all of these events, we’re reviewing our policies and… asking them to contact our reservations office, and we’ll make sure we accommodate them appropriately,” Isom said.

A US spokeswoman pointed to the airline’s policy, which allows refunds for refundable tickets – these usually cost more – and credit for the value of unused non-refundable tickets. On the other hand, people who have purchased “basic economy” tickets since April 1 are not entitled to a refund or exchange of their ticket.

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

“We sympathize with customers who have concerns about our voluntary face mask policy and will work with them on a case-by-case basis to meet their travel needs,” Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement to the Star-Advertiser.

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

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced it would appeal the Florida judge’s decision overturning the mask mandate, which was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and enforced by the Transportation Security Administration.

However, as of late Friday afternoon, the administration had still not asked a court to urgently suspend Florida’s decision. Legal experts said the White House seemed primarily interested in appealing Florida’s decision to prevent it becoming a precedent that could limit the CDC’s power to impose pandemic-related measures in the future. .