The TSA Continues The Travel Mask Mandate
Americans received some great news yesterday: the CDC has eased mask guidance for 70% of the country. After two years of wearing masks, this is a massive relief for many Americans.
However, despite the CDC’s new guidance, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) says they will continue to mandate masks on airports, trains, and planes until at least March 18, 2022.
“The mask requirement remains in place and we will continue to assess the duration of the requirement in consultation with CDC,” Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Robert Langston said on Friday.
The Transportation Security Administration announced a mask mandate on all public transport in January 2021. However, without the official mask mandate, U.S. airlines have required passengers to wear masks since May 2020—a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines, unions, customer advocates, and travel providers pushed for the mask mandate throughout 2020. The U.S. president, Joe Biden, agreed to instill a public transport mask mandate when he entered office.
- April 2020 – United Airlines and Frontier were the first airlines to implement mask mandates for the flight crew.
- May 2020 – JetBlue Airways became the first airline to mandate masks for all passengers, quickly followed by all other airlines.
- Jan 2021 – The U.S. president announced a federal mask mandate for travel until May 11.
- April 2021 – The TSA extended the mask mandate until September 13.
- August 2021 – The TSA extended the mask mandate until Jan 18.
- Dec 2021 – The TSA extended the mandate until March 18 because of Omicron.
The TSA has extended the mask mandate three times, but will they extend it again?
Will The TSA Extend The Mask Mandate For Travel?
The current mask mandate is due to finish on March 18, 2022. With the new relaxed CDC guidance on mask-wearing, it’s a possibility that the TSA won’t extend the mandate again.
But it’s hard to predict.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA—a large union representing thousands of American flight attendants—expects the TSA to extend the mask mandate again.
They said: “We have every expectation that the mask mandate will be extended for the near term,”
“The conditions in aviation are the same. Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine. The airplane is a unique, but controlled environment for everyone’s safety. The layered approach to safety and security includes masks.”
“Aviation is a worldwide network that harmonizes safety procedures around the world. It’s also critical that we maintain passenger confidence in the safety of air travel.”
Airlines have remained silent on whether the TSA should extend the mask mandate. Delta Airlines CEO, Ed Bastian, regarding the mask mandate extension said: “Obviously, that’s going to be driven by the medical experts and not by the airlines, and we’ll follow their guidance,”
But What’s The Current Travel Mask Mandate?
The federal mask mandate says all passengers must wear masks on planes and in airports. Passengers who refuse to wear masks face fines and potentially other consequences. Last year, the U.S. president doubled fines for travelers who refuse to wear masks on planes.
The new fines are $500 to $1000 for first-time offenders. Also, the fines increase from $1000 to $3000 to repeat offenders. Children under the age of 2 and those with disabilities are exempt from the mask mandate.
However, the fines haven’t stopped passengers from refusing to wear masks. There have been 607 unruly passenger incidents in 2022 alone, with 397 of those incidents linked to mask-wearing.
As soon as we have more information on the U.S. travel mask mandate—we will update you.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories