United Airlines Creates Face Masks From Old Employee Uniforms

United Airlines said yesterday that it had begun manufacturing face masks from old employee uniforms. The new face masks are an extension of United’s in-depth CleanPlus plan. The plan seeks innovative ways to keep United employees and customers safe.

United Airlines, one flying others parked
United Airlines has begun manufacturing face masks for employees. Photo: Getty Images

United upcycles old clothes

Yesterday, United Airlines revealed that it has been making face masks from old employee uniforms. In a press release, shared on 27th May, the airline said that it has already delivered 7,500 masks, in partnership with Looptworks, to some of its frontline workers. The masks were handed out last week to workers in San Francisco International Airport and its maintenance base.

Each mask required around 1.64lbs of fabric to make and was sourced from a shipment that was designated for another cause. 12,284lbs of old uniforms were due to become carpet padding and insulation fiber. However, with the development of the coronavirus, it became apparent that priorities needed to shift.

United Airlines mask
Producing masks to fight the coronavirus became more of an urgent concern. Photo: United Airlines

The face coverings that United has been able to make are being used to bolster the reserves of masks at the airline. Since the start of May, all frontline workers and United customers are required to wear face coverings onboard flights and at the airport.

Making a sustainable choice

Many more airlines are now requiring cabin crew and travelers to wear face masks. While the reason is all in the interest of safety, it does come with an environmental complication. More and more, single-use face masks have been found discarded in the natural environment.

The advantage of United’s investment is that it prevents employees and staff from engaging in wasteful behavior. The coverings are reusable, washable, and they do not compromise the earth’s natural resources.

Female United employee wears face mask
United’s masks are reusable, which mitigates environmental concerns. Photo: United Airlines

The California State President at United Airlines Janet Lamkin said that the initiative aligns United in these unprecedented times to its overarching goals. In a press release, she stated,

“This was an opportunity to do something extra for our employees to keep them safe while also staying true to our commitment to be one of the most sustainable airlines in the world.”

Mask manufacturing is part of a broader vision for safety

Providing reusable face masks to frontline workers is just one of the projects that United is working on to restart its operations safely. The airline has outlined the United CleanPlus plan, which details how it intends to combat viral transmission.

United Airlines face mask, male employee
Face masks are just one part of the CleanPlus plan. Photo: United Airlines

Not only does the strategy include strict surface sanitation on board, but it also contains changes to services, such as snacks to replace in-flight meals. What’s more, United wants to use AI to carry out health checks without compromising employee workloads. It hopes to use machines to assist with temperature testing and says, on the CleanPlus website, that it is,

“…testing UV sanitation deployed by drones and hand-held wands.”

This is just the latest development in the airline’s innovative strategy, and we’re likely to see more changes to its operations in the future. What next?

What do you think of United Airlines’ latest venture? Let us know your thoughts on this story in the comments.