Is the mask mandate on flights going to last longer? What airlines don’t have masking requirements?

Most states in the US have dropped or eased masking restrictions, but airports and airlines aren’t on that list. Some pilots and flight attendants aren’t happy about this.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the federal transportation mask mandate until April 18.

“During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor,” the statement reads.

Driving the news: A group of pilots with JetBlue, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are suing the CDC over the extended mandate.

  • The pilots allege that the CDC acted “without providing public notice or soliciting comment,” according to the lawsuit.
  • They claim that they have “serious concerns about the safety implications” that unruly passengers retaliating to the masking policies cause, per Business Insider.

An Association of Flight Attendants survey from last July stated that 85% of flight attendants dealt with unruly passengers in 2021, and 1 in 5 had experienced physical incidents, as I previously reported.

A union for flight attendants at Southwest Airlines is also asking the White House and other aviation regulators to drop the mandate, per The Dallas Morning News.

Another union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, was in complete support of the extension.

  • “We have every expectation that the mask mandate will be extended for the near term,” the union said. “The conditions in aviation are the same. Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine.”

Could the mandate be extended?: The masking mandate has been extended three times and could be again if another variant develops.

The mask requirements will remain in place and will continue to be evaluated “based on the state of the virus,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said, per CNET.

Mask mandates do contribute to lower transmission of the virus.

“If you look at the studies, most of the in-flight transmission … occurred in flights earlier than March 2020, prior to the enforcement of in-flight mask-wearing policy,” said Dr. Aisha Khatib, chair of the International Society of Travel Medicine who has studied SARS-CoV-2 transmission on flights, per Time Magazine.

State of play: Air travel in the United Kingdom already has fewer pandemic restrictions, as two of the country’s major airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, eased their masking requirements.

  • Face covering is only mandated when the travel destination has requirements in place.
  • Other airlines in Europe, including Transavia, Jet2, TUI and KLM, have also dropped their mask mandates.

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