The leaders of every major passenger airline in the United States and the head of Airlines for America are joining the growing number of voices asking for a sunset of the national transportation face mask mandate.
The executives of 10 U.S.-based airlines and the leader of aviation consortium Airlines for America are the latest to ask the White House to put an end to the national transportation face mask mandate.
In a letter to President Joe Biden sent by Airlines for America, the group formally asked to eliminate both the pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement and face covering requirements on publicly accessible transportation.
“…It is Past Time to Eliminate COVID-era Transportation Policies”
The letter was signed by the chief executives of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. Joining on the letter were the leaders of three cargo carriers: Atlas Air, FedEx Express and UPS Airlines. In their letter, the group acknowledges the need for additional precautions at the height of the pandemic but point to the downward trending COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as evidence that travel regulations can end.
“During the global health crisis, U.S. airlines have supported and cooperated with the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the letter reads. “We are encouraged by the current data and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions from coast to coast, which indicate it is past time to eliminate COVID-era transportation policies.”
With the mask mandate in particular, the leaders say science shows there is no longer a need for face coverings. Pointing to both the U.S. Department of Defense study and the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health – both of which encouraged the use of face masks – the group states that airline cabins are among the safest indoor environments, which doesn’t necessitate the need for continued face coverings.
“Importantly, the effectiveness and availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to wear them gives passengers the ability to further protect themselves if they choose to do so,” the letter reads. “It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do.”
Furthermore, the executives also point to the matter of employee safety. Noting the increased number of unruly flyer incidents during the pandemic, the group says going without masks is safer for everyone than keeping the mandate in place.
“It is critical to recognize that the burden of enforcing both the mask and predeparture testing requirements has fallen on our employees for two years now,” the letter continues. “This is not a function they are trained to perform and subjects them to daily challenges by frustrated customers. This in turn takes a toll on their own well-being.”
For pre-departure COVID-19 testing, the letter notes that Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom have all dropped their travel restrictions. Although the U.S. still requires pre-departure testing, the leaders suggest it be reduced to a risk-based approach, such as only applying it to those who have not been vaccinated against the novel Coronavirus.
Second Letter in Two Days from Aviation Stakeholders Asking for Face Mask Rules to End
The letter from the airline executives is the second one sent in two days asking for a timely sunset on aircraft face mask rules. On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, Transportation Workers Union Local 556, representing Southwest’s flight attendants, also asked the White House to put down the face mask requirements for both passengers and workers.