Federal Judge Voids US Mask Mandate for Planes, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport No Longer Requiring Face Masks

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida struck down a national mask mandate on airplanes and mass transit. As a result TSA followed with an announcement that they will no longer enforce the federal mask mandate, allowing employees and visitors the option to wear face coverings inside planes or at the airport.

Phoenix Sky Harbor issued the same announcements giving travelers the option of masking up at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. In a press release, the airport said face coverings will continue to be made available in vending machines and free of charge at information counters as the CDC still recommends people wear masks in public transportation settings.

Social media was a buzz on Monday evening with videos and posts about the mandate change. It did not take long before several airlines announced their policy change, which included Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement, “Effective immediately, Southwest employees and customers will be able to choose whether they would like to wear a mask, and we encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their wellbeing.”

Delta and Alaska airlines released similar statements, telling travelers they now have a choice in their decision to wear a mask on domestic and international flights.

The decision to void the mandate by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, she said the CDC improperly failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed.

In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said “the only remedy was to vacate the rule entirely across the country because it would be impossible to end it for the limited group of people who objected in the lawsuit.”

The judge’s ruling opened up the decisions to airlines, airports and mass transit systems, to make their own decisions about mask requirements.

The Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s largest union of cabin crews, has taken neutral position on the mask mandate due to division of opinions on the issue with their members.

Los Angeles International Airport, the world’s fifth-largest by passenger volume, dropped the mask mandate.

New York City’s public transit system however plans to keep its mask requirement firmly in place and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said masks would now be optional for riders on their buses and trains.

However, Valley Metro says they have plans to still require masks on their public transportation system.  Valley Metro officials said in a statement, “We follow the guidance of the TSA, who extended the mask mandate through May 3. The mask mandate remains in place while the Justice Department reviews the court decision.”

On the other hand, Amtrak passengers and employees will no longer be required to wear masks.

If you are planning a trip this week, it is recommended to passengers to check with their airline for updates as it typically takes airlines 24 to 48 hours to put new procedures in place.

The masking requirement was recently extended to May 3, applying to all public transportation like buses, planes and trains. The Biden Administration is reviewing the ruling. Both the Justice Department and CDC have declined to comment if the government plans to appeal the ruling.

 


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