US airlines end compulsory mask-wearing mandates

Passengers can once again breathe easy on domestic and some international flights.

By Bloomberg News, April 19 2022
US airlines end compulsory mask-wearing mandates

United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines will no longer require travelers or employees to wear face coverings on domestic and some international flights, following a U.S. judge overturning a federal mandate for passengers to cover their faces on board airplanes and trains.

The carriers all said that as of today they will also not require the use of masks in lounges, at boarding gates or elsewhere in airports.

However, Qantas partner American Airlines is qualifying its position as applying to “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,” the airline said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle vacated the mask requirement nationwide and directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse the policy put in place in February 2021.

“Today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time,” an administration official said in a statement. “Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time.”

The ruling comes as states across the U.S. have eased restrictions following an overall drop in case numbers from a January peak caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Almost 1 million Americans have died of Covid in the past two years, and hundreds more continue to die every day.

CEOs from the largest U.S. airlines said in a letter to President Joe Biden last month that it was “past time” to lift the mandate.

“We are requesting this action not only for the benefit of the traveling public, but also for the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to Covid-19,” the group of 10 CEOs said in the March 23 letter.

However, while US carriers end compulsory mask-wearing, their flights to Australia will continue to see masks as a must-have.

A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Health tells Executive Traveller “the Australian Government currently requires, under the Biosecurity Act 2015, that travellers flying to Australia wear a mask for the duration of their flight, unless exemptions apply.”

Additional reporting by David Flynn

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here