Major U.S. airlines, including Delta and United, tossed out mask requirements on Monday after a federal judge struck down the Biden administration’s transportation mask mandate, giving customers and staff the first respite from the coronavirus restrictions in nearly two years.
Employees and customers “may continue wearing masks if they so choose,” under Delta Airlines’ new policy unveiled Monday evening.
“We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as Covid-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus,” the company said in a statement. “Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other, and our customers, safe during the pandemic.”
United said, “Masks are no longer required on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s requirements) or at U.S. airports.”
Alaska Airlines said “guests and employees have the option to wear a mask while traveling in the U.S. and at work.”
“While we love to see your smiling faces in the airport and on board, we respect your decision to keep using this added layer of protection,” the company said in a statement. “Above all, we hope you’ll treat each other with kindness and respect throughout the travel journey and beyond.”
The airline touched on the topic of guests banned from traveling when the federal mask policy was in effect. “Based on our reports, we will have some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious who will remain banned, even after the mask policy is rescinded,” it said.
JetBlue said “mask wearing will now be optional” and customers and crew are welcome to continue wearing them.
The CDC’s mask mandate was enacted in February 2021 and most recently extended through May 3. However, airlines had their own requirements in place for almost two years.
The rollback on masks was met with an eruption of cheers and applause aboard a Delta flight from New York City to San Francisco when it was announced over the intercom, with one keen customer shouting “Finally!”
It may be a sigh of relief for some airlines that have grappled with over 7,100 unruly passenger reports in the skies since January 2021, the vast majority related to mask mandates, according to Federal Aviation Administration data.