A Monday federal court ruling struck down a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandate requiring masks on U.S. mass transport systems, but the requirement is still optional and, depending on where you’re traveling, it’s not quite time to rush maskless to your nearest airport.
So, what gives? The major airlines and many of the busiest airports moved to drop their requirements on Monday after the Transportation Security Administration announced it wouldn’t enforce a January 2021 security directive that applied to airplanes, airports, taxis and other mass transit, according to The Associated Press.
But the ruling still gave those entities the option to keep their mask rules in place, resulting in directives that could vary from city to city.
Salt Lake City International Airport is among U.S. facilities that responded quickly to Monday’s ruling in coordination with the TSA, according to airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.
While the airport still encourages wearing a mask and provides access to masks for travelers who want them, masks are now optional and signage and notices about required mask wearing around the terminals have been taken down.
And Volmer noted most of those traveling through Salt Lake City following the change have embraced mask-free mode.
Videos shared online show plane passengers cheering after a judge’s decision to throw out a public-transport mask mandate, while the White House recommended people still wear masks on planes, trains and buses #WSJWhatsNow https://t.co/oCVhFoH59F pic.twitter.com/avvusSEALT— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) April 19, 2022
“The reaction seems to be very positive for passengers,” Volmer said. “It’s been a long 14 months and people are ready to move forward. We are expecting a very busy summer travel season.”
Things you should know: Per AP, the ruling gives airports, mass transit systems, airlines and ride-hailing services the option to keep mask rules or ditch them entirely, resulting in rules that vary by city and mode of transportation.
And while most major U.S. airlines and airports made the switch to mask-optional operations, a passenger that boards a flight barefaced in Salt Lake City, for example, will still have to don a mask when they deplane in New York City, where the major airports, and subway system, continue to uphold mask mandates.
CNN reported Tuesday that Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines had all announced mask-optional policies on domestic flights. But international carriers were mixed in their response to the new U.S. rules.
Spokespeople for Air France and Lufthansa told the Wall Street Journal that masks were still required on board all their flights, in line with French and German regulations.
British Airways and Dutch flag carrier KLM — which operates in a partnership alongside Air France — told customers that the requirement to wear masks onboard was dependent on restrictions in the arrival destination, per the Journal. KLM told passengers that it still “strongly advises all passengers” to wear a face mask on board.
On the ground: Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft announced Tuesday they are also suspending mask requirements, per CNN.
“The CDC order requiring masks while using rideshare platforms such as Uber is no longer in effect, and we’ve revised our COVID-19 mask and front-seat policies accordingly,” Uber wrote in emails to users on Tuesday.
Uber will no longer require riders to sit in the back seats of vehicles but asked riders to refrain from using the front seats unless they are traveling as part of a large group. Lyft passengers are also again permitted to sit in front seats, the company said in a blog post.
“We know that everyone has different comfort levels, and anyone who wants to continue wearing a mask is encouraged to do so,” Lyft said in the post.
The Utah Transit Authority, which provides service from Salt Lake City directly to the Salt Lake City International Airport terminal, also announced Tuesday via Twitter that it would no longer require riders to wear masks.
In response to the federal court ruling, #UTA is no longer requiring masks to be worn on our system. We continue our enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures, and will keep providing masks on our buses and trains for riders who wish to use them.— Utah Transit Authority - UTA (@RideUTA) April 19, 2022