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United Airlines to require passengers to wear masks in airports

New normal of flying in the U.S.
What flying in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic looks like 05:22

United Airlines is expanding its passenger requirements for wearing face masks. Starting Friday, travelers must wear masks in all airports where the carrier operates as well as on flights. People who ignore the policy risk being removed from the plane and banned from flying for at least the duration of the mask requirement, the airline said

The policy applies to all passengers older than 2 years of age, without medical exemptions.

"Due to the risk posed by asymptomatic transmission on board, only children under the age of 2 may not wear face coverings at our airports or in our aircraft," Maddie King, a United spokesperson, said in an email. "If a passenger believes that there are extraordinary circumstances that warrant an exception, they should contact United or speak to a representative at the airport."

The mask policy will apply at ticket counters, lounges, gates and baggage areas across the 360 airports worldwide where United operates.

All major airlines require passengers to wear masks while on board, but the policy has been inconsistently enforced. 

Spike in cases causing concern for travel industry 01:55

United's policy shift follows a move by Delta earlier this week stipulating that passengers asking for a mask exemption would have to undergo a medical screening by phone before being allowed to board. Delta also said it would ban any passengers making up medical excuses to elude the mask requirement.

Airlines have been one of the hardest-hit industries during the coronavirus pandemic. Air travel plummeted earlier this year, but was slowly recovering before again beginning to stall in recent weeks as infections surged around the U.S. About 530,000 people went through security checkpoints at U.S. airports on Tuesday, the lowest number in July other than the July 4 holiday, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, United reported a $1.6 billion loss for the second quarter, as revenue plunged 89% from the same period last year, according to the AP.

Falling demand may lead to lower ticket prices. United CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC that he expects fares to decline in the short run.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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