TSA No Longer Enforcing Mask Mandate, Numerous Airlines Announce They Won't Require Face Coverings

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the ruling "disappointing" just days after the CDC extended its mask mandate into May

Travelers wearing protective face masks arrive at Orlando International Airport on the Friday before Memorial Day
Travelers head to the airport wearing masks. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce the CDC's mask mandate for travel after a federal judge in Florida struck down the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) directive.

Although Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, voided the mandate Monday, arguing that the CDC overstepped its authority, President Joe Biden's administration is still encouraging travelers and commuters to mask up, The Hill reports.

"The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps. In the meantime, today's court decision means CDC's public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time," a Biden administration official said in a statement to several outlets.

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

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the ruling "disappointing" during a briefing on Monday, noting that the administration is reviewing the decision, which they could choose to appeal.

People testing at the airport
Travelers wearing masks at an airport. Getty

Delta Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have since released statements detailing their new relaxed masking policies. United Airlines has also lifted its policy, which they announced in a memo to employees.

"This means that you are no longer required to wear a mask -- and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public," the memo said, according to Bloomberg.

Despite the ruling, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), NJ Transit and Amtrak have announced that they will still require masks, according to WNBC.

Monday's ruling, which was the result of a lawsuit filed last year by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund, comes days after the Biden administration extended the mask mandate for airplanes, trains and other transit systems into May amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC previously announced in a statement.

In response to the ruling, the Association of Flight Attendants noted that it could take airports 24 to 48 hours to implement new masking policies, urging patience and calmness in a statement from union president Sara Nelson.

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"We urge everyone to practice patience, remain calm, and to continue to follow crewmember instructions," the statement reads. "And we remind passengers that it is legally required to follow crewmember instructions, and that disruptive behavior has serious consequences as it puts everyone at risk. Our work space is your travel space. Let's get where we're going, together."

Since implementing the CDC's mask mandate in late Jan. 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded more than 5,000 reports of unruly passengers in mask-related incidents.

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