Off Again, On Again?

It looks like mandatory masking on airplanes may be a thing of the past. Maybe.

Late Monday, United, American, Southwest, Delta, Alaska, and other airlines dropped their face mask requirement effective immediately. The mandate lift came directly on the heels of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa. She said the federal mask mandate exceeded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s authority.

The mandate was set to expire on Monday anyway, but the CDC wanted to extend it until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus. It was to be the mask mandate’s fifth extension despite repeated requests from airlines and other travel industry officials to ease restrictions. 

This is the first time that passengers can board mask free in nearly two years. 

Airlines began requiring masks before the government did. 

JetBlue Airways was the first carrier to announce the requirement. Other carriers quickly matched the airline’s policy.

Two years later, most of those airlines are rushing to remove the mask requirement, which they have been pushing to end for a while. 

The new policies vary by airline and are subject to change. 

At a glance, here are what the top four airlines are saying: 

American Airlines: Face masks will no longer be required for customers and employees at U.S. airports and on domestic flights. 

Take a look at their official statement

Delta Air Lines: Effective immediately, masks are optional for passengers inside U.S. airports and onboard aircraft. Delta travelers and employees, and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Here is their official statement.

United Airlines: Effective immediately, masks are no longer required at United on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s mask requirements), or at U.S. airports. You can find more info here

Southwest Airlines: Effective immediately, passengers and employees may choose whether they would like to wear a mask. Their official statement can be found here

If you don’t see your particular airline, a quick internet search will direct you to the right place. Nearly every airline out there has updated its policy and made some sort of statement about this. 

Now about that “maybe…”

On Tuesday, April 19, the Biden administration announced it will likely be appealing this federal judge’s ruling. That announcement doesn’t actually change anything, but it wouldn’t be surprising for the new court to stay the previous courts ruling… which would put the mask mandate back in place until the court made a final ruling.

Which could also be appealed to the Supreme Court.

For now, as of publication, passengers are free to decide for themselves whether or not to wear masks.

Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/18/florida-judge-overturns-cdc-mask-mandate-for-public-transit-planes.html
https://news.aa.com/news/news-details/2022/Update-on-Federal-Mask-Mandate
https://news.delta.com/masks-now-optional-employees-customers-following-white-house-announcement
https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/notices.html
https://www.swamedia.com/releases/

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