Ruling Says Masks No Longer Required in Planes or Airports, but CDC Still Recommends Them

A federal judge ended the mask mandate, but the CDC continues to recommend travelers wear them.

do i need to wear masks in airports
Photo by Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock
Photo by Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock

A federal judge struck down the Biden administration's mask mandate for public transit on April 18. That policy included trains, planes, and airports, among other transport hubs. The ruling was made just days after the administration extended the mask mandate through May 3.

There is a lot to unpack in the ruling. For now, the most pressing question for travelers is this: Do you need to wear a mask on planes and in airports still? While things briefly seemed murky on Monday, the Biden administration has clarified the situation.

"The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps," a Biden administration official said on Monday night, per CNN, leaving the door open for the ruling to be challenged. "In the meantime, today's court decision means CDC's public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time.

"Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time. CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings."

Airlines quickly shared the news. United Airlines told Thrillist, "Masks are no longer required at United on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country's mask requirements), or at US airports." Alaska Airlines posted a similar comment, saying, "masks are optional in airports and onboard aircraft, effective immediately." Some airports even trumpeted the removal of the mask mandate on social media.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted in a Monday briefing that the CDC still recommends travelers wear masks while on public transit.

In addition to United and Alaska, Delta and Amtrak confirmed to Thrillist that they will no longer require guests to wear a face covering. Additionally, the New York Times reports that Southwest and American Airlines will no longer require masks as well.

The rules may change again if the Department of Justice challenges the ruling. Though, the mask mandate extension was only set to last a couple more weeks to get more information about the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which is thought to be fueling another uptick in cases in parts of the US.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.