A federal judge’s decision in Florida to scrap a national mask mandate for public transportation in the US has created a confusing patchwork of rules for passengers as they navigate airports and transit systems.
The ruling gives airports, public transportation systems, airlines, and ride-sharing services the option to keep rules on wearing masks or ditch them altogether, resulting in rules that vary by city. and the mode of transportation.
Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Houston to Kennedy Airport, for example, could dispose of their masks at the departure airport and on the plane but must put them back on once they land in New York or take the subway.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recently extended the mandate until May 3 to allow more time to study the Omicron BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the US. But the court decision suspended the mandate.
Here’s a look at how US transportation hubs and providers are responding:
Major airlines were some of the first to update their rules after the court decision. United, Southwest, American, Alaska, Delta, and JetBlue announced that effective immediately, masks will no longer be required on domestic flights.
“While this means our employees are no longer required to wear a mask, and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the public, they will be able to wear masks if they choose, as the CDC continues to recommend in transportation. public,” United Airlines said.
The Flight Attendants Association, the nation’s largest cabin crew union, has recently taken a neutral position on the mask rule because its members are divided on the issue. On Monday, the president of the union called for calm on planes and airports.
Alaska Airlines said some passengers who were banned for violating the mask policy will continue to be banned.
Airports were not as quick to phase out masks, with several expressing uncertainty about the ruling and taking a wait-and-see approach.
But others, including Houston’s two major airports, dropped mask requirements shortly after the Transportation Security Administration said it would no longer enforce the mask mandate. Los Angeles International and Phoenix Sky Harbor have also dropped their mask requirements. San Francisco International Airport said it was awaiting further guidance from the TSA.
New York City airports seemed to keep the mandate intact
TRAINS AND BUSES
Rules for train and bus passengers vary by city and transit agency.
In New York, Metropolitan Transportation Authority communications director Tim Minton said the system maintained the mask mandate, meaning face coverings are still required on subways, buses, and commuter rail lines. , as they have done since the start of the pandemic.
But the regional train system serving the Washington, DC area said Monday that masks will now be optional for its customers and employees going forward.
“Our mask mandate has been based on federal guidance,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, general manager and chief executive officer of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. “We will continue to monitor this situation as it develops, but masks will be optional on Metro property until further notice.”
Amtrak also said it would make face masks optional.
Websites for ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber as of Monday night still said masks were required.