Yesterday, a U.S. district court judge in Florida ruled against mask mandates on public transportation. Following the ruling, the Biden administration announced that the Transportation Security Administration will no longer enforce the federal mandate, which was in place through May 3, requiring masks in all U.S. airports and on board aircraft.
“The current decision to halt enforcement of the federal mask mandate effectively returns the choice of mask usage on planes and other forms of public transportation to travelers and travel industry workers, a further step toward endemic management of COVID,” says Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association’s executive v.p. of public affairs and policy.
Airlines have been the first to act since the ruling was issued, not wasting any time to announce that masks are now optional for passengers. Among these airlines are: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Travel, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Group Holdings,Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.
Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members, and customers inside U.S. airports and on board all aircraft domestically, as well as on most international flights.
Due to the novelty of this announcement, Delta Air Lines reminds guests on its website to be patient as the communication rolls out to all of their employees. “Given the unexpected nature of this announcement, please be aware that customers, airline employees and federal agency employees, such as TSA, may be receiving this information at different times. You may experience inconsistent enforcement during the next 24 hours as this news is more broadly communicated—remember to show understanding and patience with others who may not be aware enforcement is no longer required. Communications to customers and in-airport signage and announcements will be updated to share that masking is now optional—this may take a short period of time,” states Delta Air Lines on their website.
“We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus—with better treatments, vaccines and other scientific measures to prevent serious illness. Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other safe during the pandemic,” the Delta Air Lines website states.
American Airlines also issued a statement, noting “American Airlines has prioritized the health and safety of its team members and customers throughout the pandemic and has supported the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. In accordance with the Transportation Security Administration no longer enforcing the federal face mask mandate, face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights. Please note face masks may still be required based on local ordinances, or when traveling to/from certain international locations based on country requirements. In keeping with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us, customers and team members may choose to continue to wear masks at their own discretion.”
Alaska Airlines stated, “Face masks have been like boarding passes for nearly two years—you couldn’t fly without one. But, as of today, masks are optional in airports and on board aircraft, effective immediately.”
Adding that, “While we are glad this means many of us get to see your smiling faces, we understand some might have mixed feelings. Please remember to be kind to one another and that wearing a mask while traveling is still an option.”
Airlines for America, an industry trade group, also commented on the new ruling, stating “The high level of immunity and widespread vaccine accessibility in the U.S. coupled with the hospital-grade cabin air on aircraft provide a strong, science-based foundation for passengers to travel with confidence as restrictions are lifted on our nation’s airlines.”
“We look forward to welcoming millions of travelers back to the skies this summer to reunite with loved ones, attend conferences or to take a vacation,” they added.
For land-based vacations, Amtrak said it will no longer require face masks for passengers and employees, and Uber and Lyft have also jumped on the new ruling and removed mask requirements for passengers in the U.S. In addition, Lyft has also ended the requirements for the vehicle windows to be kept open and for the front seat to be kept empty.
For more airlines news and updates, click here.