Face masks are no longer (as of Monday) mandatory on American airlines after a judge ruled against the federal obligation for public transport in the US.
Magistrate Kathryn Mizelle found that the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control had exceeded its authority for imposing such restrictions on public transport. In the wake of the ruling, numerous American airlines announced that the mask would no longer be mandatory, at least on domestic flights.
“This means that our employees no longer have to wear masks – or impose them on passengers. They can choose to wear one, especially since the CDC continues to strongly recommend it on public transport,” said United Airlines.
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American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines made similar announcements, stating that masks are now optional for crew members and customers on domestic and most international flights. The airlines warned travellers that they would still be subject to local mask restrictions upon arrival.
Disappointment from the White House
Alaska Airlines added that the mask reversal will not reverse decisions made while the obligation was in place. Some passengers banned for not following the mask directive will still be excluded.
The ruling came after a conservative Health Freedom Defense Fund launched a lawsuit against the Biden-backed mask mandate. Magistrate Mizelle, who is a nominee of former Republican President Donald Trump, ruled in favour of the plaintiffs against the government mandate.
Despite the public having a "strong interest" in fighting the spread of Covid, the judge said that the mask mandate "exceeded the CDC's statutory authority", and it "failed to adequately explain its decisions."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the decision a "disappointing decision," adding that "The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit."