After a federal judge struck down a nationwide mask requirement for airplanes, trains, buses and other public transportation on Monday, the country’s largest airlines said they would stop requiring masks on flights, ending a practice that most carriers followed for nearly two years.
The airlines acted after a Biden administration official said the Transportation Security Administration would no longer enforce the mask requirement while the White House reviewed the judge’s decision and determined whether to appeal.
Here is what some of the biggest US airlines had to say.
In a statement, American said customers and employees could wear masks “at their own discretion” but would no longer be required to do so on flights within the United States. “We are deeply grateful to our team members for their enforcement of the mandate, and will share more information about this transition in the coming days,” American said.
Southwest said in a statement that employees and customers would be free “to make the best decision to support their personal well-being,” and took note of the high-end air filtration systems installed on plans that it and other carriers use.
As Delta announced that it would stop requiring masks, it also asked the public to be patient with the change in policy and with the time needed to update signs and advisories. “Given the unexpected nature of this announcement, please be aware that customers, airline employees and federal agency employees, such as TSA, may be receiving this information at different times,” it said. “You may experience inconsistent enforcement during the next 24 hours.”
United said it would stop requiring masks on domestic flights but would still require them on flights to countries with mask mandates. “While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask — and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public — they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit,” the airline said.
In a statement to customers, Alaska said it welcomed the opportunity to “see your smiling faces,” and thanked them for their patience with the shifting rules and guidance during the pandemic. “It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change,” Max Tidwell, the airline’s vice president of safety and security, said in the statement.
JetBlue announced its shift in a short statement, noting that “mask wearing will now be optional,” though customers and flight crews are still “welcome” to wear masks in terminals and on planes.
Masks will now be optional on domestic flights, Spirit said late on Monday. “We understand some guests may want to continue wearing face coverings on flights, and that’s perfectly fine,” the company said.
Frontier said that while it would stop requiring masks on its plans, masks might still be required by some of the airports and cities it serves. “Customers and team members should continue to abide by mask rules within any facility that may require it,” it said. “Per CDC guidance, regardless of whether a mask mandate is in effect, individuals are encouraged to continue to wear masks in indoor settings.”