A major milestone in the coronavirus pandemic was reached on Monday when the Biden administration’s policy for requiring masks on public transportation was ruled “unlawful” by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle for the Middle District of Florida.
Effective immediately, mask requirements on airplanes, trains, buses, etc. were dropped for the first time since the federal mandate was put into place by the CDC in February 2021.
It was also clarified that TSA will not be enforcing mask-wearing policies in airports and on airplanes.
Here’s what this means moving forward.
Airlines have independently released statements on how they will handle the new ruling
Even though the federal mandate was lifted, independent airlines and companies can still make mask-wearing policies mandatory for travelers if they so choose.
Delta Airlines has ruled that masks will be optional for all employees, crew members and flyers in airports and onboard domestically, noting that this policy also applies for “most international flights,” provided the countries being flown in and out of don’t have their own mask policies at play.
The airline’s statement was edited on Tuesday after the company caught major flack for its original wording that referred to Covid as a “seasonal virus”.
“We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus,” Delta’s original statement said. “Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other, and our customers, safe during the pandemic.”
Delta joins United Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines, which have all released statements stating that mask-wearing will be optional domestically but selectively required internationally.
Most airlines encouraged customers to check mask and pandemic-related travel requirements in the countries that they will be traveling to and from outside of the U.S.
Certain regional airports will still keep the mask mandates enforced in accordance with state guidelines
Philadelphia International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are also continuing to enforce mask mandates at this time.
Passengers are encouraged to check their local airport’s policy before arriving.
Statewide public transportation systems are continuing to enforce mask mandates
New York’s MTA system will continue to enforce mask mandates for passengers. This includes the subway, New York City buses and the two train lines that operate out of New York City, the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North.
New York is joined by the CTA in Chicago, the BART system in the San Francisco area and the LA Metro system in Los Angeles.
New Jersey will not require masks on its public transportation system, New Jersey Transit, however, nor will the WMATA system based in Washington, D.C.
Amtrak has also dropped mask requirements for travelers aboard its trains.
Rideshare companies are also adjusting their policies
Uber announced that it would remove mask requirements for riders in an email sent out to customers on Tuesday. The company will also change its no front seat policy, which has prohibited passengers from sitting in the front seat of Uber vehicles since the pandemic began.
Lyft followed shortly thereafter by also dropping mask requirements and once again allowing riders to sit in the front seat.
For both companies, the policy is in play for both riders and drivers.