It’s time for the masks to come off on planes, the chief executives of 10 airlines and cargo carriers told President Joe Biden in a letter Wednesday urging and end to pandemic travel precautions.
“Now is the time for the administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions — including the international predeparture testing requirement and the federal mask mandate — that are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment,” said the board of directors of the industry group Airlines for America, which includes the CEOs of United Airlines
Delta Air Lines
and American Airlines
In the letter, which was posted online, the executives argued that current “patchwork” regulations are outdated and cause undue strain on airline employees to enforce, and that COVID-19 testing requirements for international travelers have proven to be ineffective.
“The high level of immunity in the U.S., availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to use them, hospital-grade cabin air, widespread vaccine availability and newly available therapeutics provide a strong foundation for the administration to lift the mask mandate and predeparture testing requirements. We urge you to do so now,” they said.
Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration extended the mask mandate for airplanes and public transit for at least another month, through April 18.
In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its mask guidelines, saying that most healthy people do not need to wear masks indoors anymore. The CDC recommendation did not apply to airplanes or public transit, but the agency has reportedly been working on a revised policy for how much longer masks should be required for travelers.
While the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have plunged from the peak of omicron earlier this year, global numbers are on the rise again as the BA.2 subvariant spreads. A top World Health Organization official said this week that European countries lifted COVID restrictions too quickly and are paying for it now with the current surge.