Less than 12 hours since a U.S. District Court in Florida declared the national face mask mandate unlawful, at least three airlines have dropped their requirements for passengers to wear face coverings in airports and aboard aircraft.
Judge Declares Mandate “Exceeded the CDC’s Statutory Authority”
The decision comes from the lawsuit against the federal government filed by the Health Freedom Defense Fund and two individuals. The organization claims to stand for “Freedom, choice, and the most basic of human rights, bodily autonomy,” but has only challenged COVID-19 vaccine policies across the United States.
In the 59-page decision, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida writes that although the national face mask mandate created by a presidential executive order and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was created to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus, the broad rule overstepped boundaries. In order to allow relief, the logical decision was to overturn the mandate.
“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of [COVID-19],” Judge Kimball Mizelle writes in her decision, citing another lawsuit. “In the pursuit of that end, the CDC issued the Mask Mandate. But the Mandate exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority, improperly invoked the good cause exception to notice and comment rulemaking, and failed to adequately explain its decisions.”
Once the court issued the decision, Reuters reports the Biden administration will not require the Transportation Security Administration to enforce the mask mandate, despite the agency announcing it would continue to do so until May 3, 2022. While the CDC has not publicly commented on the decision, the Reuters report notes the agency recommends people wear face coverings “in indoor transportation settings.”
Airlines Drop Face Covering Rules After Decision
In the hours immediately after the decision came down, airlines began dropping their rules requiring passengers to wear a face covering. United Airlines – which was coincidentally the first to require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine – was the first to announce masks would be optional for passengers. Alaska Airlines went a step further with their announcement by welcoming back many previously banned passengers, noting that only the “guests whose behavior was particularly egregious” would remain on the no-fly list.
Delta Air Lines was the second legacy carrier to announce that face masks would be optional for both passengers and employees but could continue to wear them if they so choose. As of press time, American Airlines has not made an official announcement about their policy, but FlyerTalkers have leaked an inside memo posted to the company’s Jetnet service noting the end of face mask requirements. [Edit: American Airlines formally announced they would drop face mask rules at 8:00 PM Eastern Time.]
Source: frugal travel guy