Major U.S. airlines announced plans to scrap mask mandates after a federal judge Monday overturned the requirement instituted by President Joe Biden’s administration. On Wednesday, the Justice Department moved to appeal the ruling, but while it's being litigated, masks are still not required on public transportation, including many airlines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented the mask mandate in February 2021, but U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle for the Middle District of Florida said it was “unlawful.”
The administration’s mandate stated people must wear masks on planes, trains, buses and other forms of mass transit. The mandate was due to expire Monday, but the CDC had pushed it back two more weeks to May 3 out of concern there may be a new spike in COVID-19 cases, due to the BA.2 subvariant.
In the wake of the judge's decision making masks optional, several airlines issued statements about where they stand. Here’s a look at the ones that no longer require masks.
“In accordance with the Transportation Security Administration no longer enforcing the federal face mask mandate, face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights,” American Airlines said on its website.
“In keeping with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us, customers and team members may choose to continue to wear masks at their own discretion,” it added.
Delta Air Lines
“Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and on board all aircraft domestically, as well as on most international flights,” the airline said in its statement updated Tuesday.
Masks are no longer required on domestic United Airlines 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)!” the carrier tweeted Monday night.
The Dallas-based carrier said in an updated statement on Monday that as a result of the decision, “effective immediately, masks are no longer required onboard Southwest Airlines or in most airports but certain cities, states, and countries may still require masks. We encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their personal wellbeing and to check local airport mask policies when traveling.”
“In line with Monday’s federal court ruling and the Transportation Security Administration’s guidance, mask wearing will now be optional on JetBlue,” the airline said Monday. “While no longer required, customers and crewmembers are welcome to continue wearing masks in our terminals and on board our aircraft.”
The statement also said passengers and crew should have masks in case they travel outside of the United States at a destination where they are required.
“Due to a judicial decision in our federal court system, the mask mandate has been overturned, which means our guests and employees have the option to wear a mask while traveling in the U.S. and at work,” Alaska Airlines said Monday, while adding that customers traveling to and from Canada must continue wearing masks. The statement also said people need to wear masks in Canadian and Mexican airports.
As of April 18, masks are optional for both customers and employees on Hawaiian Airlines. "We advise travelers to stay informed and follow mask requirements that may remain in effect at their origin or arrival airports," the carrier wrote on its website.
The low-cost carrier, which announced plans in February to combine with Frontier Airlines, says that face masks are now optional for both customers and crew. "For our Guests traveling internationally, please remember to check country-specific airport requirements before traveling," the airline tweeted on Tuesday.
“To mask or not to mask, the choice is yours," the carrier tweeted early Tuesday. "Masks are now optional on domestic flights, however, certain airports or countries may still require masks, so check the policy at your destination prior to departure and we’ll see you in the sky."
The low-cost carrier, based in Las Vegas, announced that masking is an individual's choice. "Consistent with TSA guidance, all Allegiant customers and team members may wear a mask if they choose to, but are no longer required while traveling with us," the company tweeted.
Sun Country Airlines
"Effective immediately, wearing a mask on Sun Country flights is optional for our passengers & employees," the carrier tweeted on Monday. However, its website notes that masks are still required on flights to and from Canada.
"Please remember to be kind to your fellow passengers as we navigate these changes together," the statement says.
Amtrak is also going the optional route.
“While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19,” it said on its website. “Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.”
Public transit systems in large cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles don’t plan to drop their mandates, although New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that masks will not be mandated on NJ Transit. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, in Washington, D.C., announced Monday it will make masks optional as well.