A federal judge recently ruled against nationwide mask requirement for trains, planes, and other forms of public transportation. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were directed to cut mask enforcement on public transport. Even though both agencies changed their policies, they continue to recommend wearing masks in these settings.
On Monday, April 18, 2022, some of the country’s biggest airlines said that they would no longer require masks on flights. Most carriers followed masking guidelines for nearly two years, but this response came as a result after the Florida federal judge’s ruling. U.S. District Judge Kathyrn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida, ruled that the 14-month-old directive for mask wearing was unlawful, and it overturned the White House’s effort to keep masking mandates in place.
What Does The Ruling Mean?
The ruling means that the CDC’s public transportation masking order is no longer in effect. It comes a little early as the U.S. health officials extended the mandate to May 3rd, 2022, requiring masks for travelers on trains, taxis, planes, and busses. Health officials said they needed more time to assess the impact of recent COVID-19 surges caused by the virus. The TSA won’t currently enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring masks on public transportation or in transportation hubs.
In response to the ruling, many airlines reacted swiftly, dropping mask requirements for passengers on their flights. You can learn how the different airline companies responded below.
Delta announced that it would stop requiring masks onboard its flights. Within this announcement, Delta also asked that the public be patient with the change in policy and allow time to adjust to changes. It takes time to change the safety advisories and signs, but the sudden nature of this policy change was somewhat surprising. Customers, airline employees, and federal agency employees may receive information at different times and there may be inconsistent enforcement at first.
Alaska Airlines issued a statement to customers saying that it welcomed the chance to see the smiling faces of its passengers. The statement went on to thank customers for their patience during shifting rules and guidance during the pandemic. With constant changes and restrictions, it’s been difficult for both passengers and staff. The statement also noted that Alaska hopes people will continue to treat each other with kindness and respect, regardless of masking or no masking. Additionally, guests that the airline banned due to egregious behavior during the pandemic will remain banned after the mask policy is rescinded.
In a public statement, American Airlines made sure to emphasize one point, “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.” Face masks won’t be required for customers or team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights. Depending on different local ordinances, people may still have to where masks, especially in international locations and flights.
On domestic flights, United Airlines does not require passengers or team members to wear masks. It will, however, continue to require that passengers and team members where masks on flights to countries with mask mandates. Employees don’t have to enforce mask wearing on domestic flights, but they can wear them if they so choose. This is in response to the CDC’s recommendation to continue wearing a mask on public transit.
In a statement to the public, Southwest Airlines said that customers would be free to make the best decision to support personal well-being. In addition to promoting the freedom to choose whether to wear a mask or not, Southwest took the chance to promote their high-end air filtration systems on its planes. These systems are also installed on the aircrafts from other carriers.
While Frontier will stop requiring masks on its planes, other airports and cities that it serves may still require people to wear masks. The airline stated that both customers and team members should continue to abide by masking rules where required. Frontier also said that the CDC encourages individuals to wear masks in indoor settings, regardless of current mask mandates.
Other airlines, including JetBlue and Spirit, also responded similarly to the new mask regulations. Just keep in mind that this is an evolving situation. Respect the decisions of others during this process. If someone wants to wear a mask or not wear a mask, there’s no need to chastise their decision.