United CEO Oscar Munoz said on Monday that the United Clean Plus kits also contain a snack and a bottle of water. The masks are intended for passengers who do not already have their own, he said.
United last month startedwear face masks, with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
Airlines have been particularly hard hit in recent weeks. Delta, JetBlue Airways and Southwest all saw passengers cancel flights a few days after COVID-19 cases started to increase in March. Lower bookings hurt quarterly profits for some airlines. The entire industry could lose $ 21 billion in revenue this year, said the International Air Transport Association.
United cut flights, froze hiring, and asked employees to volunteer for up to six months’ unpaid leave while the airline is struggling with weak demand. The company temporarily immobilized an unknown number of planes and reduced its passenger carrying capacity by 20% on international flights and by 10% in the United States last month.
Next month, each United flight will be disinfected with an electrostatic spray and all surfaces will be disinfected before each departure, the company said.
Almost all airlines have reported that they are intensifying aircraft cleaning, sometimes including the use of foggers to spray antiviral chemicals inside the cabin. They also try to convince passengers that the air inside the cabin is breathable.
Airlines must occupy seats again if they hope to recover billions of lost revenue. They usually don’t make money unless a plane is more than 66% full, according to CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. Major airlines have reduced capacity by up to 90% to cope with an estimated 97% drop in customer demand for flights, he recently reported.
Beyond face masks, some airlines block some or all of the intermediate seats to create social distancing. This is now possible on most flights with low demand for seats, but will become more difficult when more passengers start to return. It is also more difficult on small regional aircraft, as passengers could be seated closer to each other to balance the load on the aircraft.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.