Following a Florida Federal Court ruling against the mask mandate, the Biden Administration has suddenly decided to end it with immediate effect and major U.S. airlines have already reacted, dropping their own requirements.
The White House has also instructed the TSA to no longer enforce the mandate at airports and likewise in airplanes, the federal rules about conduct on aircraft as a passenger will no longer cover face masks.
Airlines have previously lobbied the White House to drop the mask mandate as well as the testing requirements to enter the U.S. but as of last week, the Biden Administration has extended the mask mandate yet again for two more weeks.
Following that, a District Court judge from Florida ruled on Monday on a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs in July of 2021 that it’s not within the purview of the CDC (and by extension the administration) to require passengers to wear masks on aircraft and other forms of public transportation as well as transit points.
The conclusion is that the judge vacated the mask mandate, saying that it exceeds the CDC’s statuatory authority :
With this, the mask mandate was put on ice and the administration could have taken (or could still take) the case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, possibly even to the Supreme Court but it’s unlikely this will happen. Two years into the pandemic which has now been classified as endemic in many parts of the world, mask-wearing and especially the mandate has become a contentious issue with even longtime advocates say it’s time to do away with them.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued the following statement:
Monday, April 18, 2022
Due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. TSA will also rescind the new Security Directives that were scheduled to take effect tomorrow. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.
Airlines lost no time and immediately announced that they would no longer require wearing masks onboard their flights:
Face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights (though there may be some exceptions based on local or country requirements). https://t.co/GT1lZq5TAf
— americanair (@AmericanAir) April 19, 2022
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
— Delta News Hub (@DeltaNewsHub) April 18, 2022
BREAKING: Face masks are officially optional in airports and onboard all Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air flights, effective immediately. Full statement: https://t.co/zVonJVowr7
— Alaska Airlines News (@AlaskaAirNews) April 18, 2022
There hasn’t been any statement yet from Southwest Airlines and their website isn’t updated as of this moment but that is probably just a matter of time at this point.
If you’re flying to the U.S. with a foreign carrier the rules might be different so I recommend checking first. It might finally be worthwhile to book flights with a U.S. carrier again for the time being.
The New York Times reports that Amtrak has also stopped requiring masks even though their Twitter still has a pinned post from February saying the opposite (how hard is it to delete something like this in a timely fashion after giving an interview to a nationwide publication!?).
A federal judge in Florida struck down the mask requirement on airplanes, trains, buses and other public transportation on Monday, less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had extended it through May 3.
The ruling left it up to individual airlines and local transit agencies to decide what to do, and by late Monday, the nation’s largest airlines had dropped their mask requirements for domestic flights. The Amtrak rail system said passengers and employees would no longer need to wear masks.
In a 59-page decision, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, voided the mandate — which also applies to airports, train stations and other transportation hubs — nationwide on several grounds, including that the agency had exceeded its legal authority under the Public Health Services Act of 1944. Because of the ruling, the masking order was not in effect for the time being, and the Transportation Security Administration would not enforce it, a Biden administration official said on Monday evening.
The official said that the administration was still reviewing the decision and assessing whether to appeal it, and that the C.D.C. still recommended that people wear masks in enclosed public transportation settings. …
Last month, the executives of major airlines — including Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines — had asked the Biden administration in a joint letter to let the mask mandate on planes and in airports expire.
In her ruling, Judge Mizelle also faulted the agency for issuing the mandate under emergency procedures without delaying for public comment — rejecting the idea that there was no time for that since the pandemic was then already a year old. …
As I mentioned, while possible it’s unlikely that the White House will appeal the decision at this time, The mandate was set to expire in two weeks’ time either way and the appeal would be filed with the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, GA. Following that, only the SCOTUS would be left to rule on the matter.
The masking requirement has become unpopular with airlines, business groups and large parts of the population so it’s probably futile or at least not very wise for the administration to pursue the matter at this point in a crucial election year with the midterms just six months away and so many other things on their plate.
Thanks to the courts there are checks and balances as well as limitations to the power an elected government can impose upon the people. Pretty much any U.S. administration has experienced key policies being dragged through and often struck down by the courts and as controversial as these decisions sometimes are, the most important cases are usually settled at the SCOTUS. That’s still a pretty civil way of dealing with things and a functioning judicial system is something we should be thankful for no matter where we stand on single issues.
Following a District Court ruling which declared the CDC Mask Mandate unlawful, all major U.S. airlines have already announced that wearing face coverings is now optional and no longer required. Passengers can of course continue to wear a face mask if they elect to do so. Hopefully, common sense and decency will prevail on both sides of this discussion. I’d hate to see nasty scenes and arguments on planes with people who just can’t let others be.
Personally, I’m very glad about this. I have a long flight from South Korea to San Francisco coming up next week and I’m happy that I don’t have to deal with the face mask for 11 hours in one stretch plus time at the airport. I’ll probably continue wearing one in places with large groups of people if I feel like it. I have worn masks in such a setting ever since I first lived in Japan 10 years ago. This has nothing to do with Covid for me but unfortunately, this has been transformed into a political, almost religious matter. I wish we could go back to just start to respect each other again without the urge to constantly pick fights with strangers.