Fact Check

Did United Airlines Run a Contest for Vaccinated Passengers?

The "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes was aimed at encouraging U.S. residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Published May 24, 2021

 (Aaron Rome/Flickr)
Image Via Aaron Rome/Flickr
In May 2021, United Airlines launched a free flights giveaway for passengers vaccinated against COVID-19.
What's True

United Airlines launched the "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes on May 24, 2021. Aimed at encouraging U.S. residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it gave participants the chance to enter a drawing to win return flights to the airline's destinations around the world, as well as a free year of flights.

What's False

The promotion was not strictly limited to those who could provide proof of having been vaccinated, and the terms and conditions allowed entries from those who did not provide such proof because they "are vaccinated and concerned about privacy or aren’t vaccinated due to health or religious reasons."

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In May 2021, several news outlets reported that United Airlines had launched a promotion offering free air travel for some passengers who had received COVID-19 vaccinations.

On May 24, for example, Business Insider reported that:

United Airlines is now offering its vaccinated MileagePlus members the chance to win a year of free flights... If you're interested in having your post-vaccination "revenge vacation" but deterred by these steadily increasing airfare costs, look into United's new "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes, which was created to help "incentivize people to get their shot," Scott Kirby, United's CEO, said in the press release. You could win a free round trip or, even better, a year of free travel.

United's MileagePlus members interested in entering the sweepstakes must upload their COVID-19 vaccine records onto the airline's Travel-Ready Center via its website or app by June 22.

A similar article was published by The Hill. Those reports were largely accurate, and we are issuing a rating of "Mostly True." On May 24, United Airlines did indeed launch a sweepstakes offering rewards members who had been vaccinated the chance to win one of 30 roundtrip flights to any United Airlines destination, or a year's worth of free flights.

Although the promotion was designed in part to encourage residents of the U.S. to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it was not strictly limited only to entrants who could prove they had been vaccinated.

As USA Today and Forbes correctly noted in their reports, the terms and conditions of the promotion stipulated that members of the public could still enter by mail, rather than uploading their vaccination card online "if [they] are vaccinated and concerned about privacy or aren’t vaccinated due to health or religious reasons."

The prizes were restricted to U.S. residents aged over 18, and to MileagePlus members, although non-members could sign up in order to take part in the sweepstakes, according to the airline's website.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.

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