U.S. Airlines React to the Lifting of the Federal Mask Mandateby Daniel McCarthy /
Face masks will no longer be required on planes and other forms of public transportation after a federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled against the federal mask mandate and the White House, shortly after, said it would no longer enforce it while it is under review.
That means that starting immediately, passengers on U.S. flights will no longer be required to wear masks. The change is welcomed by the U.S. Travel Industry, including the U.S. Travel Association, which said in a statement on Monday that the move was “a further step toward endemic management of COVID.”
“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,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said.
“We also continue to urge the administration to immediately end pre-departure testing for vaccinated inbound international passengers, which discourages travel and provides limited public health benefits,” she added.
The new mask could change—the White House said it was reviewing its options on Monday—but airlines have already started rolling back guidance to passengers. Here is what the major U.S. airlines are saying:
Photo: Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines, in a statement, said that its policy is changing (masks will now be optional) but stressed that the choice is still up to guests.
“Due to a judicial decision in our federal court system, the mask mandate has been overturned, which means our guests and employees have the option to wear a mask while traveling in the U.S. and at work,” the carrier said.
“Safety is always our highest priority, so while we love to see your smiling faces in the airport and on board, we respect your decision to keep using this added layer of protection. Above all, we hope you’ll treat each other with kindness and respect throughout the travel journey and beyond.”
Alaska also said that the consequences of all that chaos that some guests caused over the mask mandate and its enforcement are not going away.
“What happens to guests who were banned because of not following our previous mask policy? Throughout the last two years, we have relied on reporting from agents and flight attendants to ban noncompliant guests from traveling while the federal mask policy remained in effect. Based on our reports, we will have some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious who will remain banned, even after the mask policy is rescinded.”
American welcomed the change on Monday, writing in a statement that its crew and guests will no longer be required to wear a mask inflight. It also thanked its crew members for the enforcement of the mandate, something that caused disruptions and chaos for so many flight attendants during the mandate’s tenure.
“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.”
“We are deeply grateful to our team members for their enforcement of the mandate, and will share more information about this transition in the coming days.”
Photo: Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines
Delta said on Monday that the airline was “relieved” to see the U.S. mask mandate lift in order to “facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus.”
Effective immediately, all Delta staff and guests will no longer be required to wear face masks, but it emphasized that passengers may have to be patient with the change.
“Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Wearing a well-fitting mask protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks.
“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.”
Just like Delta, JetBlue on Monday said that its crew and customers can both opt to wear or not wear a mask going forward. And also just like Delta, JetBlue stressed patience with the new policy at airports nationwide.
“In line with Monday’s federal court ruling and the Transportation Security Administration’s guidance, mask wearing will now be optional on JetBlue. While no longer required, customers and crew members are welcome to continue wearing masks in our terminals and onboard our aircraft,” the carrier said.
“Regardless of the U.S. rule change, customers and crewmembers who are traveling internationally should always have a mask with them in case they continue to be required at their destination.
“We are working to proactively share this update with our customers and crewmembers, so please be patient as we update our communications.”
Southwest joined the others on Monday, making its face mask policy optional, and saying that it would encourage its guests to make the best decision for their own personal wellbeing.
“As a result of this development, effective immediately, Southwest Employees and Customers will be able to choose whether they would like to wear a mask on flights, at domestic ?airports, and at some international locations. We encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their personal wellbeing. Additionally, Southwest will continue supporting the comfort of those who travel with us by offering additional layers of protection, including sophisticated cabin air ventilation systems onboard our aircraft which incorporate HEPA air filtration that removes at least 99.97% of airborne particles.”
United Airlines in a short statement also said that its passengers and crew will now have the option to wear a mask on flights.
“Masks are no longer required on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s requirements) or at U.S. airports. More comfortable keeping yours on? Go right ahead…the choice is yours,” United said.
Masks are no longer required on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country's requirements) or at U.S. airports. More comfortable keeping yours on? Go right ahead… the choice is yours (you look dino-mite either way)! pic.twitter.com/hwq678v55d— United Airlines (@united) April 18, 2022