Airports, airlines across US begin to drop mask mandates after court ruling
Travelers were celebrating across the country Monday as airports and airlines dropped their mask requirements after a Florida federal judge voided the Biden administration’s mask mandate for planes, trains and buses.
But confusion also accompanied the enthusiasm as some airports, airlines and transportation agencies had yet to announce whether they would continue to enforce the mandate — or confirm that masks are still required.
Following the judge’s ruling, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines all relaxed their mask policies for customers, crew and workers.
“Feels good to be flying the moment the mask mandate was lifted. People are literally celebrating at this airport,” Darrin Smith tweeted Monday night.
United and Delta lifted the mask requirement for all domestic flights. United also said the change in policy would apply to “select international flights” while Delta said masks would also be optional on “most international flights.”
Southwest and American Airlines also nixed the mask requirement for travelers and employees, but did not specify if the switch extended to international flights.
Airports such as Raleigh-Durham, Miami and Portland have confirmed that they will no longer be enforcing mask requirements per local TSA directives, but San Francisco Airport said it “will continue to comply with the current TSA security directive on masks until we hear otherwise from TSA.”
The Port Authority — which operates JFK Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Newark Airport, Teterboro Airport as well as the Port Authority Bus Terminal and PATH rail system — has not made any announcement regarding the mandate suspension.
In New York City, subway and bus riders have been instructed to keep their masks on.
“The mask requirement on public transit in NY remains in effect for now pursuant to a March 2, 2022 determination by the New York State Department of Health,” the MTA said in a statement Monday night.
Washington, DC’s Metro, however, has ruled that masks for riders are now optional.
US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle — an appointee of President Donald Trump — ruled that the CDC failed to properly explain its decision to impose the mandate or follow proper rulemaking procedures.
The Biden administration on Monday evening confirmed that travelers can stop wearing masks for the time being, pending a review and possible appeal of the ruling.
Last week, the CDC announced the transportation mask mandates would be extended for an additional 15 days after they were set to expire on April 18 following a small surge in COVID cases of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, prompting the TSA to extend its enforcement until May 3.
Elated travelers took to social media following the announcement, describing scenes of celebration as passengers learned the news.
Kenneth Naylor said, “Boarding an American Airline flight when mask announcement made – everyone cheered. Flight attendants were euphoric.”
“Well. In an unexpected twist they announced mid-flight that the mask mandate had been lifted. People clapped and they came down the isle collecting trash to collect disposable masks and the flight attendant posted an us-y for tik toc,” Brent Toellner said.
Others were taken by surprise when they heard about the rule changes.
“Does anyone know if any airline is still doing mask mandates (and will still be doing them come Summer?” asked Michael Rosenbloom. “I’m considering registering for a conference that requires flying cross-country, and I’m not really willing to board a flight that does not mandate masks.”
This article originally appeared on New York Post