U.S. Extends Airplane Mask Mandate Through April 18

by Suzanne Halliburton

If you’re traveling via airplane, train of bus, you’ll still be under a mask mandate through April 18. But there could be some relief on the horizon.

Covid infections are plummeting, but the Transportation Security Administration extended the federal mandate, Thursday. That means those who go to an airport or train station must still wear a mask.

Airline Mask Mandate: What to Know

  • The TSA and CDC extended the mask mandate until April 18. It was set to expire March 19.
  • The mandate applies to passengers on airplanes, trains and buses. It also extends to people inside airports and train stations.
  • Airlines put the restrictions in place in the spring of 2020. President Joe Biden made it a federal mandate in January, 2021.

Before the TSA and CDC made their Thursday announcement, the mandate was set to expire on March 19. However, note that the mask mandate was only extended by 30 days. CNBC reported that an abbreviated extension may signify that President Joe Biden and the CDC are considering whether to lift the mask mandate this spring. That’s if Covid cases continue to decrease. There were 39,200 new cases reported Wednesday in the United States. That’s after topping 900,000 in mid-January. All states have lifted restrictions.

CNN reported that the mask mandate could be lifted before April 18, so long as the Covid cases continue to decrease.

In a statement, the CDC said it would be coordinating with agencies over the next month. They will “help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor.”

The CDC said it would study national data and the science on new cases within communities as well as science on new variants.

Airline Passengers Became Disruptive Over Mandates

The mask mandate, particularly on airplanes, has been a divisive issue. The Federal Aviation Administration received more than 5,900 reports of passengers of unruly passengers. About 4,800 of those cases were from passengers who refused to wear a mask. The FAA adopted a zero-tolerance policy for these refusals.

CNN said some airlines don’t want the TSA to lift the mandate only to have cases go back up. So caution is appreciated.

“What we really don’t want is to lift the mandate and have to reimpose it,” a source told CNN.

United and Frontier ordered its flight attendants to wear masks in April 2020. Then JetBlue Airways was the first to make its passengers wear masks. That was in May of 2020. Other airlines quickly followed.

However, President Donald Trump didn’t make it a federal order, although labor unions asked for it.

Biden made the mask mandate a federal order after he took office in January 2021. The mask mandate was extended in April, August and then in December. This is the first time the mask mandate only was extended by a month.