(NewsNation) — The Transportation Security Administration and America’s biggest airlines will no longer enforce the travel mask mandate after a federal judge in Florida struck it down.
In the immediate hours after the ruling, airlines were not sure how to respond and continued enforcing the rule. By Monday evening, however, America’s four biggest airlines — American, United, Delta and Southwest — all dropped the requirement on their flights.
“The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps. In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time. Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time. CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.”administration official
The TSA’s announcement comes after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Florida vacated the national mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of U.S. health officials in the COVID-19 pandemic. Mizelle believes the CDC failed to justify its decision on the matter.
According to Mizelle’s 59-page ruling, it’s not possible to end the mask mandate for a certain group of people, saying: “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all.”
From her perspective, voiding the mask mandate for airplanes and public transit across the country is the only remedy.
“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” Mizelle wrote.
The CDC recently extended the mask mandate to May 3. It was set to expire Monday. The agency pushed to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the virus.
Capt. Laura Einsetler, currently flying for a major airline, says it’s appropriate that the country’s mask mandate for public transportation expire now. She said dealing with unruly passengers was distracting airplane staff.
“It takes away from our focus on a primary job, which is to fly the aircraft and to keep everyone safe,” Einsetler said. The FAA has recorded 744 incidents of unruly passengers so far this year.
Mask or no mask: What airlines are saying
In addition American, Delta, United and Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have so far announced masks are now optional.
Allegiant says their mask policy remains unchanged at the time.
“This is a dynamic situation that we are closely monitoring, as we’re anticipating further clarification on the implementation of the judge’s order,” an Allegiant spokesperson told NewsNation.
Delta first said it would follow the TSA, then announced masks were optional for passengers and crew later Monday night.
“Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose,” a statement said. “Wearing a well-fitting mask protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks.”
Before the airlines announced their rules, the Association of Flight Attendants said it would likely take up to two days to implement a change, telling NewsNation, “we urge calm and consistency in the airports and on planes. The last thing we need for workers on the frontlines or passengers traveling today is confusion and chaos.”
The White House is still making sense of the federal ruling as well. When asked how they assess the Florida court’s decision, press secretary, Jen Psaki, responded with no clear answer.
“We’re continuing to recommend that everyone wear masks. I don’t have any updates. This just came out through the courts — just this afternoon — and as soon as there is an update, we will provide that to all.