US Mask Mandate for Airplanes, Public Transit Extended to January

The initial mandate set by the Transportation Security Administration was due to expire Sept. 13

Women, escalator, with, suitcases
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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended the U.S. federal transportation mask mandate.

The policy, first set to expire Sept. 13, has now been extended until Jan. 18, 2022, as COVID-19 cases rise amid the spread of the Delta variant, Reuters and the Associated Press reported this week.

A TSA spokesperson told Reuters the decision for the extension is "to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation."

Flight Mask
Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants across 17 airlines, said the TSA's extension will "help tremendously to keep passengers and aviation workers safe."

"We have a responsibility in aviation to keep everyone safe and do our part to end the pandemic, rather than aid the continuation of it," the president of the union, Sara Nelson, said in a statement. "We all look forward to the day masks are no longer required, but we're not there yet."

The U.S. Travel Association said the extended policy "has the travel industry's full support."

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"The universal wearing of masks in airports and on airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation is both an effective safeguard against spreading the virus and boosts public confidence in traveling—both of which are paramount for a sustained economic recovery," the organization said in a press release.

Despite the general support from industry employees, travel industry professionals have faced increased violence from unruly passengers over the public transit mask mandate first set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 29, soon after President Joe Biden took office.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Unruly Passengers report, out Tuesday, even revealed that out of 3,889 unruly passenger incidents reported in 2021, 74 percent (2,867) were due to passengers refusing to wear a mask.

In an attempt to address the issue, the FAA announced a zero-tolerance policy back in January as reports of bad behavior soared in the high skies. Per the policy, "the agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members" in addition to issuing fines.

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