Face masks now optional on major American airlines, effective immediately

A federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate covering airlines and other public transportation Monday, and the Biden administration said the rule would not be enforced while federal agencies decide how to respond to the judge’s order.

The White House said the court ruling means that for now the mask order "is not in effect at this time."

The CDC had recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire Monday, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.

According to the White House, the Transportation Security Administration will not enforce the mask mandate in light of the recent ruling. 

"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 White House administration official told FOX Television Stations in a statement. "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."

Alaska Airlines was one of the first airlines to officially say that masks for passengers were optional on all flights. The option for wearing masks on Alaska flights goes into effect immediately, starting today. 

"While we are glad this means many of us get to see your smiling faces, we understand some might have mixed feelings. Please remember to be kind to one another and that wearing a mask while traveling is still an option," Alaska Airlines wrote on its website. 

The airline said that some guests who were banned over the last two years for noncompliance and/or violence against fellow passengers or flight attendants could still be banned, even as the mandates onboard are lifted. 

In addition to Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, JetBlue Southwest and United Airlines will also be making masks option for passengers.

Both Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and the Paine Field airport in Everett have released statements following the TSA's announcement. 

"Effective April 18: TSA no longer requires face masks on public transportation and in transportation hubs like SEA Airport. Masks are optional, the CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings. Please check with your airline and destination for more information," Sea-Tac wrote on its website. 

"At Propeller Airports Paine Field, our number one priority has always been and will continue to be the safety and security of the passengers who travel through our doors.  After two long years, masks are now optional at the Paine Field Passenger Terminal.  We ask that you continue to be considerate of others and diligent in your efforts to protect yourself and fellow passengers when traveling.  We look forward to seeing your smiling faces at your next visit through PAE," said Paine Field CEO Brett Smith. 

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