a woman wearing a face mask pointing at a screen on an airplane

A federal judge has ruled that the CDC’s mandate requiring masks on planes and in airports is unlawful. Effectively immediately, it’s been overturned.

The shock ruling deemed the federal mandate “arbitrary” and effectively lacking in explanation as to why these air travel related venues differed to other indoor venues.

The matter will now be referred back to the CDC and the Biden Administration. An appeal will be lodged, or the ruling will stand. We’ll soon know.

“Because ‘our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in the pursuit of desirable ends,’ the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,”

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, US District Court Judge

With massive confusion in planes, trains, busses and airports today as a result of the ruling, here’s what you need to know for your upcoming travels, and when things may truly change with clarity. Hopefully, soon!

a man wearing a face mask

Airlines Make Masks Optional

Initially, it seemed as if airlines would wait to find out how The Biden Administration and CDC would respond to the court ruling, but that went out the door fast. Within just minutes, US airlines launched “masks optional” messages.

This includes; American, Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United.

Airlines have anxiously awaited, and argued for, the federal government to end the mask mandates. Delta was among the first to issue a statement. Mask optional airlines now include; American, Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United. Hawaiian says it will hold onto its mask policy, for now.

Following the ruling of a U.S. district court judge on Monday, the Biden administration announced that the Transportation Security Administration will no longer enforce the federal mandate requiring masks in all U.S. airports and on board aircraft. 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.

Delta Airlines
a woman wearing a face mask

Will The Biden Administration And CDC Appeal?

The Biden Administration previously extended the federal mask mandate by 15 days, ahead of the intended April 18th expiration date. May was going to be the earliest date for masks to drop.

If not for the new federal court ruling striking the mask mandate down, masks would still be required on planes and in airports for at least 15 more days by federal law. The TSA has also announced that it won’t enforce the overturned mask rules, per the court ruling.

There’s growing debate about whether the Biden Administration and CDC will appeal the mandate, or take a page out of the old political playbook of deniability and let let it draw to a close. If they didn’t end it, they “can’t take blame” if things go wrong.

If the Biden Administration doesn’t challenge the federal ruling, the administration could claim that their health measures were shunted by the USS judicial system and therefore any future spikes or case rises wouldn’t be on their hands.

Challenging the ruling could cause further confusion and risk losing public support.

Federal Mask Mandate Is Over, Masks Optional

The TSA says it won’t enforce a mask policy. Airlines have now come out saying masks are optional. Add it all up, and masks are now optional on domestic US flights and on most international flights in both directions.

Just for the sake of an on time flight, respect the choices of others in the airport and on the plane. Don’t berate people over wearing one, or not, if they so choose to.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. My FAs this afternoon did not require masks and one didn’t wear her mask. Also, our captain made no announcement about the mask rules. The Justice Department will not appeal. This nonsense is OVER! (That being said, if you’re on a flight with FAs who are still enforcing the illegal mandate you should obviously adhere to their requests)

  2. I definitely expect an appeal. Are we seeing mask mandates come back a bit in the US? Sure, mainly in Philly and a few universities. That being said, Biden’s approval rating can’t go much lower. I’d bet on a dead count bounce.

  3. Bummer, guess no family for me. Too bad cowards who are too into “freedom” to do the minimum will ruin it for anyone with cancer or immune suppression.

    1. I’m very sorry to hear how this will impact you, personally. The thought makes me sad. Because I think I have more empathy than many in this comments section, I’ll try to get in first and say a few things though.

      In reality, as the course of this pandemic has shifted to endemic and worst outcomes are being mitigated, we’re really just returning to the world as it was before. Outcomes from covid-19 right now are in line with the 1000s of other things that you don’t want, which may make someone unwell. I’d do anything to avoid norovirus this season.

      My only hope is that some of us have learned a few things and the world returns a little bit better. I, for one, will wear a mask on transportation or indoors when I feel unwell from now on. I know that was a norm in the east before, but it wasn’t in the west and I’d hope many share that courtesy if they must travel when under the weather. If I don’t need to travel I’ll stay put. If I do, I’ll take every courtesy I can to keep others from getting ill, whatever the illness may be.

      I guess I just don’t fundamentally see, with the progress that’s been made, how the world is any worse off now than in January and February of 2019. Politically its worse, we’re more divided and health has become politics — but I think more people are cautious or courteous than the world we lived in before. I wish you all the health in the world.

      1. truly sorry to the cancer patient but honestly i struggled with this argument too but it just comes down to the majority. I can’t demand restaurants stock up on chopsticks in the rare occasion an Asian like me comes in (sorry but chopsticks are the mvp). it’s the same argument with pending more resources to tear down or build new facilities to cater to a tiny population wanting separate bathrooms.

    2. If you’re really worried about it you can stick up on and wear no filter N-95s. Expecting others to do anything for your health is a losing battle anyway and 90% of people wore masks in such a way that it didn’t actually do much to mitigate the spread. Or they wore masks that had no effect.

      If you’re wearing a non-form fitting surgical or cloth mask to protect yourself you’re just kidding yourself. Those types of masks have been found to be wildly ineffective in preventing the ingestion of airborne diseases. The only effective masks are the form fitting N-95+ masks.

    3. So basically you want people to wear a mask forever – no end date, forever, period – and everywhere you might go, the rest of the population need to protect you. Is that a fair and realistic expectation?

      How did we manage to live before Covid ? Very few people were wearing a mask before .. and we have passed on germs to each other for centuries.

  4. Finally! Pity she took the decision out of Brandon’s cold old hands though. Let him off the hook.

  5. Masks are cutting down on transmissions of airborne infections. There is a strong evidence for wearing one in crowded spaces and indoors especially if one coughing or sneezing.

    1. I do believe in masks. they do work and its insane people argue they dont work because they dont eliminate transmission to zero. people in Asia wear them all the time and they’re not stupid. BUT after 2.5 years whether it’s a weak omicron or deadly plague variant, life MUST move on, this including removal of masks. mental health is equal if not more important than just physically living.

      1. How is that mask wearing and zero covid strategy working in China right now? Say masks don’t work without saying masks don’t work. If your truly believe in masks, you’ll wear one until the end of your life. I’ll bet heavily that you won’t.

  6. Yeah, I will be switching to N95 in a crowded spaces for sure such as airports, during boarding etc. I had delta variant last August and didn’t enjoy it at all. Interestingly caught it during social activity while hanging out indoors with friends none of us wearing a mask. I am occupationally exposed to airborne pathogens and always wear mask at work. They do work to the certain extent of used properly. I think the downside to wearing one in high risk environment is minimal.

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