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Face Masks Are Still Required On Flights Despite New CDC Guidelines


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Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an amendment in its mask guidance. The relaxation in the CDC’s recommendation means that most people in the United States will be allowed to not wear a face-covering in public indoor spaces. Though, you will still be required to wear a mask if you’re traveling in a cramped metal tube 36,000 feet in the sky or waiting in line to get through a TSA airport checkpoint. However, it’s not clear how much longer this will last.

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The Transportation Security Administration abides by the federal government’s mask mandate on all forms of commercial transportation. The mandate initially put in place by the Biden administration in January 2021 is set to expire on March 18th. The TSA has stated that it will seek consultation from the CDC in deciding whether to continue requiring mask usage or not. With new guidance recommending mask use only in counties with high levels of COVID, it would not be out of the realm of imagination for the TSA to just let the current mandate expire.

While the TSA is waiting to set how things play out, the flight attendants have been vocal about their stance through their union. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA has released a statement asserting, “We have every expectation that the mask mandate will be extended for the near term. The conditions in aviation are the same. Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine. The airplane is a unique, but controlled environment for everyone’s safety. The layered approach to safety and security includes masks.” The union represents the flight attendants of United, Frontier and Spirit Airlines among other carriers.

Passenger airlines introduced mask requirements in 2020 before the federal mandate, but it’s unclear how each carrier would react now without the legal requirement.

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