US airplane mask requirement no longer mandatory
The decision of the American airlines to stop wearing the health mask on their planes fell yesterday, Monday, April 18, immediately after the decision of a judge to declare illegal this federal obligation in public transport in the United States.
The judge based in Tampa, Florida, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle found in her decision that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main federal health agency, had exceeded its authority in imposing this requirement, which applies to planes, trains, subways and buses.
Most U.S. airlines announced in the aftermath that the mask would no longer be required, at least on their domestic flights.
United Airlines said the change was effective “immediately” on its U.S. flights, and on some international flights, depending on the rules in the country of arrival.
“This means that our employees no longer have to wear masks – nor do they have to impose them on passengers in most cases. They will be able to choose to wear one, especially since the CDC continues to strongly recommend it on public transport,” detailed a spokesperson for the American group, which was among the first to impose the anti-COVID vaccine on its employees.
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines made similar announcements. The masks “properly fitted protect the person wearing them, even if those around them are not wearing them,” Delta stressed, however.
“The masks have been like boarding passes for almost two years – you can’t fly without them,” Alaska Airlines noted, before indicating that they are now optional, except on flights to and from Canada.
Alaska Airlines also mentioned in its statement the case of passengers banned for refusing to wear a mask.
“According to our reports, some customers whose behavior was particularly offensive will remain banned on board, even after the change in the rule on masks,” it decided.
The U.S. civil aviation regulator (FAA) declared a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who refused to wear masks in January 2021, as airline flight crews faced a huge number of reported cases of verbal or physical abuse from people refusing to comply with the requirement.
The Southwest Airlines company recalled that the air is constantly renewed on board the planes, thanks to ventilation systems that filter “99.97% of the particles in the air”.
The Tampa magistrate made this decision after several weeks of legal battles.
The White House has recently found itself under increasing pressure to relax or repeal the mandatory mask. In particular, about 20 Republican-led states and several major airlines had called for an end to the measure on planes and other public transportation.
In any case, last week, federal authorities had finally made the decision to extend the mask requirement until at least May 3.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Judge Mizelle’s decision was “disappointing,” and noted that “CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask on public transportation.”
The Transportation Security Agency, TSA, will not enforce the requirement, the official said on condition of anonymity.