Airline Mask Mandate Will Be Extended Through January 18, 2022

President Biden is set to extend the federal transportation mask mandate out to January 18, 2022. Major U.S. airlines were informed on a call today, with airline unions set to be told on Wednesday.

Even when the CDC lifted its guidance that vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors, the mask mandate for air travel which is generally considered safer than most other indoor congregant settings remained. When the CDC again recommended indoor masking, it seemed clear that the requirement for air travel would remain in place.

U.S. airlines have universally required mask-wearing on their own since last summer. President Biden campaigned on mask requirements, but once in office didn’t press for legislation and found that current federal powers could only be stretched to cover transportation and transport hubs.

When first rolled out, the mask mandate was largely duplicative – except since it applies to everyone two years old or older, it overrode Delta’s exemption for young children, and since it requires a medical exemption process United, Southwest, and American had to marginally loosen their rules.

The mandate was originally set to end in May, but was extended through September 13, 2021. Last month I predicted that the mask mandate would be extended.

  • Some Biden advisors would like the transportation mask mandate to be permanent. That would either require a change in law, or for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to keep in place the determination that a public health emergency exists (under 42 USC 247d) indefinitely.

  • My prediction has consistently been that mask rules would end sometime before the 2022 midterms. Control over both the U.S. House and Senate are very close and the President will want to symbolically declare victory, rather than make his appearing to extend pandemic controls indefinitely an election issue in the handful of contestable races.

Early in the pandemic masks gave customers confidence to fly. Even if they were an inconvenience for the traveler, seeing everyone else masked made passengers feel safer. That’s no longer the case and airline CEOs have been vocal about a desire for the requirement to end.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has been saying for two months that the airline would bring back inflight alcohol when the mask mandate ends, since mask mandates have been the driver of tension on planes and an increase in passenger incidents.

I think it’s a great idea to properly wear a high quality mask in indoor congregant settings like airports, which lack the HEPA air filtration of planes. I also don’t see a need to require people to wear masks largely for the protection of those who choose not to get vaccinated, with vaccines plentiful and approval for boosters imminent as well. For a single ply of paper with two strings satisfying the mask mandate, the rule itself is next to useless for actually controlling spread of virus.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Stupidity has been at the root of the mask problem on flights and elsewhere. “Spreadnecks” refuse to wear them and think they are exhibiting some sort of political stand. It goes to show that years take the child to adult, but some adolescents never outgrow their need for public temper tantrums.

    On the other hand, insisting rather than recommending that toddlers wear masks, seems to go wildly against common sense and normal parenting. Flight attendants make themselves look ridiculous trying to enforce these poorly thought out mandates.

  2. Masks will last on planes indefinitely. We will never be able to fly without a mask at all. It keeps being extended because if they say the masks are permanent, people will angry. COVID-19 is the new 911. Expect in 10 years from now, we will be wearing masks on planes for no reason. There is currently no pandemic. This is all because the government wants us to mask on planes forever.

  3. Masks don’t work. This administration has truly lost it. This will never end. These are not sterilizing vaccines and covid will be with us FOREVER. We are being led by a bunch of power hungry derange hypochondriacs.

  4. Hilarious! As a physician I can tell you with 100% fact that these masks do not stop viruses—period! Don’t believe me? Just read the back of the carton where the manufactures of masks clearly state they do not work against viruses. I’m waiting for the sheep to wake up from all the nonsense.

  5. @Paul – dude check the videos. Most are not “spreadnecks” to use your ridiculous, demeaning phrase but Blacks who I seriously doubt are Trump supporters. People seem to want to blame Trump for people not wanting to wear masks but there are many groups (including large numbers of Black and Latino citizens) that are not getting vaccinated and don’t want to wear masks.

    How about not being so stupidly biased in your views. I thought you libs were the “progressive, accepting” ones. Oh yeah, another myth dashed.

  6. Not sure why Parker has tied in-flight alcohol in economy to mask mandates. Delta serves plenty of alcohol in economy with the mandate in place, haven’t noticed a big issue.

    I am not the most stringent on masks, but given current conditions nationally, a mask mandate on planes makes sense, they haven’t caused me any issues on some long flights so far during Covid

  7. What do you think will be different in January? COVID is ENDEMIC! It’s here forever. Everyone MUST get it (whether they know it or not, vaccinated or not).
    Masks will be forever.
    Take a five-year break from travel until the mania calms down.
    It will take five years but by then the mask mandate on planes will become the norm. It’s not going away.

  8. I personally hate wearing a mask for long periods of time, and I’m ready for them to just go ahead and require vaccines so we can ditch the masks.

    With that said, wearing a mask hardly cracks the list of “top ten stupid rules that we have to follow in airports and on airplanes”.

    To wit: 4 ounces of contact lens solution is dangerous and cannot be brought on a plane, but 3 ounces is ok, unless it’s in a 4 ounce bottle, which is not ok. Don’t ever get me started on what constitutes a “light jacket” because the TSA doesn’t know. I can’t have my laptop out during landing, but if I put the (removable) keyboard in the seat pocket, it becomes a tablet, which is totally fine. And so on.

  9. I expected no less from Surrender Joe. I’m just surprised he didn’t blame it on someone else.

  10. If you’re vaccinated it should be your choice to wear a mask or not

    If you’re not vaccinated that shouldn’t be the problem of those that are vaccinated

  11. This makes me so happy. If for no other reason I get to continue to see these Qanon nutjobs get tossed off planes.

  12. Although I optimistically booked several trips early this spring (the last of which is in late September, after the airplane mask mandate was expected to expire), I’ve regretted that decision more and more as the year has gone on. Flying has been uncomfortable with masks and limited food and beverage options, hotels have featured substandard service and trash-filled hallways, prices that weren’t locked in early in the spring have been exorbitant, and there’s been a lot more stress than usual (flight schedules adjusted more than usual, worries about the delta variant, etc.). Although travel used to be a great source of pleasure, it really hasn’t been this year. I’m thinking it might be best to take a year or two off and see if things return to normal. If they do, I can use my saved travel budget for some lengthier international travel; if they don’t I can spend the money on home improvements.

  13. “…the rule itself is next to useless for actually controlling spread of virus.” (sic)

    It’s never been about controlling a virus, it’s about controlling the populace. Seriously, are you that ignorant?

  14. Guess the US government is not real confident about the vaccine after all. I’m going to go out on a limb and bet This rule isn’t to protect the unvaccinated and more about the efficacy of the vaccines themselves. No coincidence that this announcement comes out at the time the government is recommending booster shots.

  15. Freedom slowly chips away.

    Most people in business class rarely wear a mask. Just let it hang while drinking or eating. I’m sure the 50% of the time you wear it really prevents anything.

    Always have to laugh at the people who take this seriously. Issue them a government rabbits food for good luck as well.

  16. Biden will single handedly have destroyed any reelection chances the Democrat Party had at the midterm elections. The GOP will win in a landslide.

  17. This is wrong on so many levels, but totally expected at this point. This country used to be the land of the brave and home of the free – now it’s just becoming the land of cowards and home of the sheep.

    We’re vaccinated, and they still impose this tyranny upon us. Please vote in the next election!

  18. – The virus is a hoax perpetrated by the Deep State.
    – The family must deny father’s death from the virus because it undermines our position that the virus is a hoax.
    – As the virus is a hoax, the true purpose of the vaccine is to introduce nano-chips into the populace by which to control them.
    – The real purpose of masks is to identify those who have submitted to control — those who resist masks are those who are yet to be controlled.
    – The Deep State is a front for those who are actually in control.
    – The real purpose of Deep State members eating babies is to identify those who have submitted to control — those who resist eating babies are those who are yet to be controlled.
    – Who are actually in control? The Secret World Government.
    – They know who you are. They know where you live. They know all your cell phone conversations. They know all your emails. They know all your conversations in your home. They already have your DNA. Are you all that naive?
    – Now, about the 100,000-point offer on the Chase Sapphire Preferred . . .

  19. Oh jeeze. Gary get off your high horse on this topic. Your nonsense about hepa filtration systems is just that. You talk as if all the aerosols immediately rush into the ventilation system by miraculously bypassing everyone around you.
    Will it take your kid (god forbid) getting the delta variant for you to stop this unreasonable nonsense?
    Just wear a ducking mask on a plane and stop being a whiny clown about it.

  20. Sometimes I am wearing a mask and someone nearby is smoking. I can smell the smoke.
    Those smoke particles are MUCH smaller than the virus obviously.

  21. Can anyone point me to an instance or study proving a mask saved someones life from covid?

  22. CDC put out data that masks reduced infections by 2%!
    2% is such a tiny number that it doesnt make sense.
    Many doctors have been public that the virus particles are much smaller than the holes of these masks and provide zero protection. All these doctors have been censored/banned for “misinformation”

  23. Business travel will not return in a meaningful way until the mask mandates are done. Since it’s business travel that pays the bills, I expect pressure from the airlines to increase dramatically once the current virus surge peaks in a couple weeks. There will be no further bailout cash coming, and there is no path to profitability for the mainlines with 80%+ leisure travel.

    While it’s obvious that this was expected (hence the status extensions to 2022, which is akin to throwing in the towel on 2021), I have to imagine there will be intense lobbying to end this thing once and for all come January (if not sooner). I can even see one of the airlines dipping their toe into a vaccination requirement with reasonable exceptions, if it means ditching masks for all. This would likely make the most sense, since their business travelers are almost certainly a largely vaccinated group.

  24. I’d rather see a mandate that only vaccinated people can travel. Just like “no shirt, no shoes, no service…”. It’s just another law like seatbelts. We don’t let people board planes smoking a cigarette so why let them get on giving out second-hand-covid? Easy and simple – no vaccine – no airports/planes. Just like a smoking ban. Same thing.

  25. It is just about control and politically motivated. I will be driving to meetings and leisure for another 4 months. AA has several $1000 of my money due to canceled flights in 2020. I keep thinking I will get to start flying but it looks like this will last till we get a real President in 2024.

  26. I guess I’ll keep using my travel funds for other activities that bring me joy. No way I’m hopping across the pond with all these ridiculous rules that are not based on science or constitutional for that matter (e.g. masks, Covid-19 test to re-enter my own country even if vaccinated, curfews in parts of the world, etc.).

  27. AC you are spot on it is now the liberals who have NO tolerance and continue to insist on mandates and policies that make no sense. This is the main reason I switched parties. The Democratic Party of today in NO way resembles the party of my father. N95 masks are the only reasonable commercially available mask that are proven to reduce virus transmission. That is why this is the only mask my wife is allowed to wear at the hospital where she works with Covid patients. All of these other masks are window dressing and have little effect on transmission. Either force the airlines to provide N95 to every person over the age of 12 boarding the plane or give up the mandate.

  28. “747 always says” I nominate you as the Shepherd of all the sheep. Your comments attacking Gary and others certainly show you deserve this new position.

  29. Anything to distract from Afghanistan……Anything at all will do. Next he’ll be talking about his favorite ice cream flavors while the Taliban is chopping off heads.

  30. @Cmorgan I crown you the angel of death victorious. After all you’re okay with people not getting life saving medical treatment because hospitals don’t have space. Can we have Texas send one of the mortuary trucks they’ve requested from fema to your house as you sooooo want people to die.
    Ps. Ironic that you call me a sheep when you’re the one who blithely follows Trumps lead without using your brain cell.

  31. 747 Always. You just don’t get itttttt!
    98% of those people clogging the ER are unvaccinated and had the ability to get vaccinated free of charge. It is not my responsibility to take care of these individuals. Also this has nothing to do with Trump he is no longer the POTUS! Why are you and the other sheep so infatuated with him! Did he leave such an indelible mark on you that you can’t forget him !!!

  32. Noooo. I do get it. You want children to die because wearing a mask somehow harms your fragile masculinity. Hell, I don’t even like kids and nor do I want them but to see a child die of a preventable disease due to maskless morons is beyond the pale for me.
    And the BS about masks and Covid in general in the USA was spread by Trump and is still being spread by him and his acolytes.
    Sorry that the facts hurt you @cmorgan but the fact you have to degenerate into ad hominems rather than facts proves the weakness of your point.

  33. Horrible rule-aka mandate —NOT A LAW enforced on us till January 18 now .. REALLY SUCKS thanks JOe and your cronies or whomever is running our country … not JOE

  34. 747 “always says”. Where all all of these children dying. A child is more likely to die in an automobile accident than by Covid. Do you suggest we all stop driving? And the masks that are being worn by the majority of people are for the most part ineffective. N95 masks are needed to stop the variant. I see few people wearing those. The rest is window dressing. It’s your views that are weak stop dragging the rest of us into your fantasy world.

  35. @cmorgan it’s in the news. Sadly you won’t believe they’ve died because you will call them “crisis actors”.
    Nice try though.

  36. @747

    How about you worry about abortion where millions of US citizens/ children are killed. How about you worry about childhood hunger were millions of children die. How about you give up the virtuous theatrics on masks for a sensationalized endemic with a survival rate of 99.9%.

  37. I completely agree with the refusal to wear a useless face diaper. The protect no one form ANYTHING. The “virus” travels on ARESOLS…..cloth and paper masks DO NOT stop aerosols. I will not inconvenient my self and make myself sick wearing a useless face diaper to give uninformed sheep a false sense of safety.

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