The last mask mandate for travel has been extended for two weeks until May 3, to give the CDC time to assess the impacts related to hospitalizations, deaths and hospital capacity in the face of a new Omicron subvariant. booming. But a decision on Monday by a Florida federal judge appointed by Donald Trump to overturn the warrant has thrown a wrench in those plans, sending travelers — and airline workers — scrambling for how to respond.
Following the decision, the TSA said late Monday that it would no longer enforce its directive requiring mask-wearing on public transportation and transportation hubs. Major US airlines quickly followed suit, dropping their mask mandates for employees and customers. Airlines include low-cost carriers Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air, as well as regional airlines Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, during a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC, criticized the airline industry for the sudden way the warrant was dropped, calling it a “real misstep.” and “failed leadership”.
“I’m really discouraged to see this because we should never take off with a set of rules with people in a confined space and change the rules for them mid-flight,” although she said many crews applauded the change because it means no longer having to apply the requirement.
Referring to the sudden announcement to drop law enforcement, which some crews got in the middle of the fight, Nelson said she was “very angry with the airlines for installing both the pilots and the flight attendants…it should never have happened.”
“The reason this happened was messages were sent to the flight deck saying the mask mandate had been cancelled, it’s no longer in effect on Jet Blue or Delta, or whatever the airline company. And that was a real faux pas. And I think real leadership has failed from the airlines,” she said.
The airline industry These last months pushed to drop the mask mandate, as well as pre-departure testing for international travelers coming to the United States, saying these “outdated” policies are hurting travel as sophisticated air filtration systems onboard planes already help remove airborne particles. Airlines for America, the trade group representing major US carriers, made a last-ditch effort earlier this month to ask the administration to remove the restrictions before authorities imposed another extension.
“It is very difficult to understand why masks are always necessary on planes, but not necessary in crowded bars and restaurants; in crowded sports arenas; in schools full of children; or at large indoor political rallies,” A4A President Nicholas Calio said in a letter to the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Put simply, an extension of the mask mandate doesn’t make sense,” Calio said.
PSAKI said the White House will take advice from the DOJ and CDC on next steps. But even if the DOJ pursues an expedited appeal, the process could still take weeks, likely putting the timeline well beyond the initial May 3 expiration of the CDC’s latest mask extension.
Myah Ward contributed to this report.