Almost a thousand passengers have been banned from flying on United Airlines over the course of the pandemic due to issues related to mask mandates and unruly behavior, according to CEO Scott Kirby.
“We’ve had to ban almost a thousand customers as we’ve gone throughout the pandemic … it’s a tiny, tiny percent, but if someone’s causing a problem, get the airplane on the ground, then just don’t have them fly until COVID is over,” Kirby told CNN‘s New Day on Thursday.
Kirby said the airline has instructed flight attendants to hand out cards to maskless passengers that inform them, “you’re just going to be banned from flying United Airlines if you don’t put [a mask] on.”
He said it has been an effective way to avoid putting United flight attendants in danger or into the role of a law enforcement official and has helped deescalate a number of incidents involving unruly passengers.
“The truth is, at United Airlines, we haven’t had the kinds of issues that have happened on some other airlines,” Kirby said. “Listen, we haven’t had zero, but our mask incidents are down 50 percent compared to where they were at the start of the year.”
“This is really a testament to our flight attendants,” he added. “They’ve done an amazing job.”
Last month, United Airlines became the first major U.S. airline to impose a vaccine mandate for its 67,000 American employees.
Kirby said the company has achieved a high level of compliance, with about 90 percent of United’s entire workforce showing proof of their vaccine to the airline. He expects the figure to be higher but he said that some vaccinated workers just haven’t uploaded their documents yet.
Most unvaccinated customer-facing employees with exemptions will be placed on temporary leave beginning September 27 until the airline believes that the virus is no longer at such a high threat level.
Some of United’s employees have resigned since the vaccine requirement was announced, but Kirby said those numbers are a “very low number.”
“We’ve had a handful [of resignations],” the CEO said. “The ones I’m aware of are in the single-digit number of people. We’re going to have more by the time it finishes, but it’s going to be [a] very low number of people who ultimately choose to leave.”
On Thursday, Kirby encouraged other employers to impose vaccine mandates, saying it would be the most efficient way to get everyone vaccinated and put an end to the pandemic.
Delta Airlines recently announced that 4,000 of its employees decided to get vaccinated after it announced there would be a $200 surcharge on its health care plan for those who remained unvaccinated.