Masks Are Off on Airplanes

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A new ruling against mask mandates on public transportation by a U.S. district court judge in Florida leaves the decision to mask or not while flying up to the individual travelers.

The ruling came less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the mask mandate for 15 days in reaction to a rise in COVID infections from the Omicron BA.2 subvariant.

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 White House, however,  is reviewing the court’s ruling and the Justice Department will decide whether it will appeal, according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

“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. 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.”

For land-based travel, 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.

This article previously ran in our sister publication, Recommend.

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