Multiple airlines and other transit providers announced Monday they’ve ended their mask requirements, responding just hours after a federal judge voided a recently extended mandate.
Most of the major air carriers in the United States announced that, effective immediately, they will no longer enforce mask-wearing rules, which have been federally enforced on public transportation since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines making the change include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Jet Blue, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
“Face masks have been like boarding passes for nearly two years — you couldn’t fly without one. But, as of today, masks are optional in airports and onboard aircraft, effective immediately,” Alaska Airlines, one of the first to announce its policy switch, said in a statement.
Passengers on several airlines tweeted that captains announced the new policy mid-flight and allowed people to remove their masks
Amtrak, the rail service covering 46 states, also announced it’s dropping the mask mandate.
The companies’ decisions follow a ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of Florida. Mizelle, a Donald Trump nominee, wrote in her 59-page decision that the mask mandate exceeded the authority of U.S. health officials, saying they may not “act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently extended the public transit mask mandate that was supposed to end Monday, pushing the date to May 3. The agency cited the need for more time to study the BA.2 omicron sub-variant that’s now dominating the country’s new cases, which are beginning to rise in some areas but still remain low relative to other peaks in the pandemic. However, health experts warn that those case numbers may be undercounted as mass testing slows down.
The Justice Department has not yet said whether it plans to appeal the Florida judge’s ruling.