On Monday, American airlines made wearing a sanitary mask optional on their planes. This follows immediately on the heels of a judge’s decision to outlaw this federal requirement on public transportation in the United States. The mask will no longer be mandatory for several companies, at least on their domestic flights.
American airlines made the wearing of sanitary masks optional on their planes on Monday, immediately after a judge’s decision to declare this federal obligation illegal on public transport in the United States. Magistrate Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who sits in Tampa, Florida, found in her decision that the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the main federal health agency, had overstepped its prerogatives by imposing this obligation, which applies in particular to planes, trains, metros and coaches.
At least on domestic flights
Several American airlines announced in the process that the mask would no longer be mandatory, at least on their domestic flights. United Airlines said the change was effective “immediately” on its flights in the United States, and on some international flights, depending on the rules in the country of arrival.
“This means that our employees no longer have to wear a mask – or impose it on passengers in most cases. They will be able to choose to wear one, especially as the CDC continues to strongly recommend it in the public transport”, detailed a spokesperson for the American group, which had been among the first to impose the anti-Covid vaccine on its employees.
Masks still required for traveling to Canada
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines made similar announcements. The “well-fitting” masks protect the person wearing them, even if the people around are not wearing them, Delta pointed out, however. “Masks have been like boarding passes for almost two years – impossible to fly without,” noted Alaska Airlines, before indicating that they are now optional, except on flights to and from Canada. This company also mentioned in its press release the case of passengers banned because they had refused to wear a mask.
“According to our reports, some customers whose behavior has been particularly offensive will remain banned on board, even after the change in the rule on masks,” she decided. The US civil aviation regulator (FAA) declared in January 2021 a zero-tolerance policy for passengers who refused to wear masks, while airline flight crews faced a very high number of reported cases of violence. verbally or physically from persons refusing to comply with this obligation. Southwest Airlines recalled for its part that the air is constantly renewed on board the planes, thanks to ventilation systems which filter “99.97% of the particles in the air”.
Pressure to soften the mandatory mask
The Tampa judge made this decision after several weeks of legal battles. Joe Biden’s administration has recently found itself under increasing pressure to relax or roll back the mask requirement. Twenty states led by Republicans and several major airlines had notably called for the end of this measure in planes and other public transport. But last week, federal authorities finally made the decision to extend the mask requirement until at least May 3.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Justice Mizelle’s ruling was “disappointing,” noting that “the CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask on public transportation.” According to a senior White House official, the decision “means that the CDC’s mask-wearing order on public transportation is not in effect at this time.” The Transport Security Agency, the TSA, will not enforce the obligation, said the senior official on condition of anonymity.