mask mandate flying

What could the end of mask mandates mean for travelers.

The mask mandate, put in place by the Transportation Security Administration was due to expire on March 18, but the date has been moved forward one month to April 18. The mask mandates cover air travels, as well as travel on buses and other public transportation.

With the mandate set to expire next month, there’s still concern around the safety of immunocompromised passengers, people with underlying health conditions, and those who aren’t eligible for the vaccine — for instance, children age 5 and younger.Could the mask mandate be extended yet again?

Could the Mandate Be Extended Again?

The mandate has been extended three times now and could be yet again, depending on any new variants that could develop.

The mask requirements will remain in place and will continue to be evaluated “based on the state of the virus,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Do flight attendants want to keep the mandate?

Flight attendants as a group haven’t taken a stance on whether or not to keep the mask mandate in place, the Association of Flight Attendants said. They are, however, in charge of enforcing the mandate, which also means dealing with passengers refusing to comply.

As of March 7, the Federal Aviation Administration reported 585 out of 813 unrly passengers   have been related to face masks this year. Given those numbers, an expired mandate could significantly decrease the number of violent altercations in flight.

Can individual airlines continue requiring masks onboard after the mandate ends?

The airlines haven’t announced any plans for after the mask mandate is lifted, and it’s unclear whether individual airlines can continue requiring masks for flyers. Generally, airlines follow protocols put in place by the TSA, so if the mandate isn’t extended, the airlines are likely to return to the “no mask necessary” policy.

How you can stay protected if the mandate is lifted

If you’re concerned about COVID-19 while traveling, there are a few measures you can take to help keep yourself protected.

  • Wear a face mask while in flight.

  • Choose a window seat, if possible — this exposes you to fewer people than an aisle seat.

  • Stay up to date on your vaccines.

  • Wipe down your seat and tray with a disinfectant cloth.

  • Wash or sanitize your hands before eating.

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