Nearly two dozen CEOs of U.S.-based airlines believe that the mask mandate for flights is “no longer aligned with the realities” of the COVID-19 pandemic and should be ended.
In a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday, the executives wrote, “We appreciate your leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis and now as the country recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.”
“During the global health crisis, U.S. airlines have supported and cooperated with the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are encouraged by the current data and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions from coast to coast, which indicate it is past time to eliminate COVID-era transportation policies,” the letter continued.
It added, “Our industry has leaned into science at every turn. At the outset, we voluntarily implemented policies and procedures — mandating face coverings; requiring passenger health acknowledgements and contact tracing information; and enhancing cleaning protocols – to form a multi-layered approach to mitigate risk and prioritize the wellbeing of passengers and employees.”
While the CEOs noted that they supported various mandates such as “predeparture testing and vaccination requirements for international travelers,” they argued that “much has changed since these measures were imposed, and they no longer make sense in the current public health context.”
The signatories of the letter included the CEOs of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, and UPS Airlines.
The letter read:
“The persistent and steady decline of hospitalization and death rates are the most compelling indicators that our country is well protected against severe disease from COVID-19. Given that we have entered a different phase of dealing with this virus, we strongly support your view that ‘COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.’ 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.”
We appreciate @POTUS’ leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and the U.S. aviation industry has leaned into science at every turn. However, these policies no longer make sense in the current public health context. (2/3) https://t.co/IWazJ1YRle
— Airlines for America (@AirlinesDotOrg) March 23, 2022
Regarding the issue of the extension of mask mandates for flights, the letter states, “The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, as demonstrated by the recently released CDC framework indicating that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors.”
On top of the CDC data, the CEOs noted that “several studies” conducted before the coronavirus vaccines were available showed that “an airplane cabin is one of the safest indoor environments due to the combination of highly filtered air and constant air flow coupled with the downward direction of the air.”
They pointed out that passengers can still wear masks if they want to, but said, “It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do.”
“We are requesting this action not only for the benefit of the traveling public, but also for the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to COVID-19,” the letter concluded.
The letter comes after the Biden administration extended the mask mandate for flights until April 18.
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