United Airlines Will Provide Masks and Hand Wipes to Passengers

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United Airlines is giving out face masks as part of a new amenity kit for passengers in the age of Covid-19.

“Starting today, we are providing a little amenity kit,” United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz said Monday on Bloomberg Television’s Leadership Live. “It will be a little amenity kit that has a snack, a water and some hand wipes for you as you enter the aircraft, along with a mask if you need it.”

The package is branded as “United Clean Plus,” said Munoz, who will become executive chairman after handing the CEO job to United President Scott Kirby this week. United started requiring passengers to use face coverings earlier this month, joining a rush by most U.S. carriers. Separately, Australia’s Qantas Airways said it would also provide masks on board.

Here are other key takeaways from Munoz’s Leadership Live interview with David Rubenstein:

  • Weak demand: United has no reading on when air travel demand will return and won’t schedule additional capacity until then, Munoz said. Also, the company isn’t inclined to take new aircraft given the dire operating environment.
  • Slow recovery: The airline sees no scenario where air travel rebounds by October, and the carrier will be forced to reduce overhead costs to adjust to less demand. United has warned of job cuts after Sept. 30, when terms attached to the U.S. government’s payroll support funds will expire.
  • Will existing aid be enough? “That’s the great question of the day,” Munoz said. “We don’t know what we don’t know.” United has gotten $5 billion in payroll support, which is a mix of grants and loans. The company could also borrow another $4.5 billion from the government.
  • Worse than 9/11: The coronavirus pandemic is “three times worse” financially than the impact of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Munoz said. That’s largely because airline sales have evaporated simultaneously across the world for several months, with governments restricting travel and economic activity to halt the pandemic’s spread.
  • –With assistance from Justin Bachman.

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