Federal Air Travel Mask Mandate Extended One Month

The Biden administration wasn’t quite ready to let the federal transportation mask mandate lapse, out of fear they’d look stupid if Covid-19 cases surged again. But they know the mandate is on its last legs. Every state is eliminating its indoor mask mandates (or has already done so). Even if cloth masks were effective against the Omicron variant, this mandate would do very little on its own.

The federal mask mandate for commercial airlines, airports, trains and buses was set to end March 18. It will be extended through April 18. That one month extension, announced a mere 8 days before the rule would have lapsed, is the shortest extension yet. And, barring unforeseen events, is likely to be the last.

Already the 7 day moving average of confirmed cases is down 95% from peak. Boosters are widely available and highly protective against hospitalization. Treatments have become much more available. And the country as a whole is shifting from ‘delay cases’ (bend the curve to protect hospital capacity, and so that infections come when we have better protection available) to living with a less virulent strain: get vaccinated, stay home when sick, and seek care quickly if you need it.

The transportation mask mandate was never about the most effective way to slow spread. The masks that are permitted don’t help much, and airplane cabin environments are safer than indoor restaurants and bars. Instead it was about politics: transportation potentially implicated federal powers, it was the rule they could muster not the one that would help. And now they don’t to appear to be ‘giving up the fight’.

Yet politics demands that the mask mandate will be lifted. The administration is heading into midterm elections with control of both the House and Senate in the balance. They don’t want to be imposing rules on people in a way that’s seen as dated and out of touch. And that’s doubly true now with gas prices elevated and markets in retreat in the face of inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the mandate was issued at the start of 2021 I said it would end before the midterms. In 2022 I said that it would see one more extension and that I guessed that would be for two months, but I was uncertain of this. A one-month extension was certainly within the range of expected outcomes, though it’s time for the mask mandate and the testing requirement to enter the U.S. to end.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Extending the “mask mandate” will never change the “fear of looking stupid” by the corrupt Biden administration – “looking stupid” while being stupid IS the DemocRatic way. Disagree???, well just look at where America finds itself 14 months into the brain dead Biden administration.

  2. I have an opinion 🙂 I want to wait 4 weeks from when everyone is removing their masks. If there is no major outbreak, then my mask can go. Except when around people who may be compromised medically and need the added protection.

  3. Simply proves that Biden is so wedded to his ideologies that he won’t even listen to his biggest supporters early in the pandemic – US airline management teams – whose loyalty was bought by tens of billions in taxpayer funds.
    Extending the mask mandate pushes back the return of business travel as well as leisure travelers that will not fly with a mask on (there are people in that category). Not being able to grow revenues now with very high fuel is a major delay in airline recovery.

  4. JOKE BIDEN and his Clown Car administration gets more incompetent by the day!
    The GOP midterm tsunami is coming in November!
    Bye bye Pelosi and Schumer!

  5. This administration is so risk adverse, they’re going to reap the whirlwind come November. Those in The Bubble think there’s no downside to this. Voters aren’t as stupid as they think they are, and have a memory longer than a goldfish. You can only scream “Trump” for so long until people notice he hasn’t been in charge for two years. This is on you, Brandon.

  6. When will the testing requirement to enter USA be eliminated? That is the one thing that is preventing me from international travel. Just not dealing with the hassle.

  7. @Don, it’s not just “science,” it’s POLITICAL SCIENCE!

    I guess we’ll have to wait another month for the democrats to declare “VICTORY “ over the chinavirus.

  8. As long as Palmolive softens hands while you do dishes, the masking will continue!
    You’re soaking in it!

  9. Let’s take a poll:

    Who is more stupid and fraudulent (lie about what you actually are):

    A. Biden
    B. Dr. FRAUDci
    C. Both of the above


  10. All the mask fetishists should be locked up through legitimate legal process and forced to wear N95s tightly forever. They aren’t Americans.

  11. This is ALL Biden’s fault!

    Biden invented Covid, along with both nuclear AND chemical weapons.

    I’m also confident that Biden started the Napoleonic wars after he made such a mess of the French revolution. It’s even his fault that my toast burned this morning!

  12. Maybe the mandated face mask order was an attempt to protect the flying public from returning United Airlines unvaccinated employees. I expect any remaining United Airlines employees and their potentially infected travel buddies to use free buddy passes while seated next to immunocompromized passengers in first-class and coach.

  13. I assume that the extension till April 18, 2022 was decided on the science presented to the “administration”?

  14. I’ve voted D in every election since eligible. I will be voting R across the board for the first time in my life. Enough is enough.

  15. Ha ha! These comments are funny. Who would have ever thought that simply wearing a face mask would cause such hatred?

  16. I guess the science changes along with politics. I wonder who lost more credibility during the pandemic?
    1) public health officials
    3)flight attendants
    4) brandon

  17. I believe more in the Alice in Wonderland rule. “Why is it always jam yesterday and jam tomorrow but never jam today?” Same applies to student loan “forgiveness”.

  18. Look stupid? The feds can’t look any more stupid. I’m so fed up that I am almost going to use a bad word here. What more proof do people need that this mask thing is just a power play? Stupid, stupid, stupid all the way around.

  19. One thing is certain:. Politics is particularly good at generating science “experts” amongst those with little to no scientific literacy.
    People, regardless of political affiliation, have both misunderstood and misused it to further their own agendas.
    Can we all just please be honest with ourselves, and stop making unqualified statements about the things we don’t like?

  20. I respect Biden, especially compared to the garbage before him, and Fauci is doing the best he can as a medical person. But what is really stupid (besides the mandate and the testing) is the list of “dangerous” countries. There are so many that it becomes the boy who cried wolf. After a while nobody will listen to any of this. Don’t they even get that?

  21. The only good of this decision is that it drags the memory of people closer to the mid terms and 2024 so we’re more likely to expel every single one of these POS worthless bureaucrats like Walensky. The hatred I have for this government is now at an unhealthy level.

  22. I’m ok with it.

    30 days to get people used to the idea that there won’t be a mandatory need for masks.

    Those who wish to continue to wear a mask can keep wearing them, as a matter of either personal choice or out of immunocompromised requirement.

    Those vaxed and boosted run little risk of getting debilitating Covid, and if the do catch it, there are now meds that can hasten recovery.

    Those who have chosen not to to get a lifesaving vaccine for fear that it may sap and impurify their precious bodily fluids will continue to catch COVID and of those most may recover, but a portion will become statistics, part of the black parade, and contibute to further stories at http://www.sorryantivaxxer.com

    Their choice (as they have expressed with churlish glee here and for the past two years) and we no longer need to hold the progress of daily life for the rest of us.

    Let’s roll!

  23. Maybe not the best year to travel — lots of pointless COVID security theater still around, airline ticket prices rising with fuel costs, and rental cars still pricey until they can get more vehicles for their fleets. A staycation is starting to look good to me!

  24. They just cant let any level of control go. Covid is off the top of the list with maniac Putin as if it wasnt enough to see everything spike in price, savings take a nose dive, let’s push em a little more with the mask farce. Clearly, the most dangerously radical group to inhabit the WH.

  25. This is all political theater to show just how science based they are…..LOL The incompetence of Biden never ceases to amaze me. To really prevent spread, you need N95 or KN95 masks. Yet, they insist on continuing bad policy based on very bad science, when the right thing to do was to end the charade.

  26. “out of fear they’d look stupid “ sorry but that horse left the barn a long time ago. One has to wonder what the hell they’ve been doing the past few months, that they need more time. Typical these people ruling over us, leading from behind.

  27. I guess all those that really hate Biden voted for a man who said windmills cause cancer, used a Sharpie to change the path of a hurricane, autographed a Bible, stared at the sun twice, said there were planes in the Revolutionary War, wanted to nuke a hurricane and suggested that bleach could cure Covid. And you are telling me that Biden is brain dead?

  28. Just look at the old cognitive fool and you can see that he’s brain dead! The Democrats and their mainstream media hacks have brought this on the country.

  29. “…chosen not to to get a lifesaving vaccine…”

    Really? Tell that to the British. “In the four weeks ending February 27, 397 unvaccinated Britons died of Covid, compared to 3,512 who were vaccinated. Using a broader definition, which may include more incidental deaths unrelated to Covid infections, the numbers are even worse, with 5,871 vaccinated people dying compared to 570 unvaccinated.” Alex Berenson

    Yep, truly a “lifesaving” experimental gene therapy.

  30. JohnC you are the one who is stupid for believing everything the mainstream media says. Are you perfect? How would you like for every word you say, every action you take to be micro analyzed, twisted and then molded into someone else’s perspective. Well that is exactly what the press did to Trump starting from the 6 am news to the 11pm late night talk shows, whose hosts pretended to be comedians but were nothing more than Democratic Party infomercial hosts. Trump was certainly not perfect but what we have today is far worse. I was a life long registered Democrat who will definitely not be voting blue in the upcoming mid term or 2024. Open Your eyes!

  31. In April 2020 the average US price for regular grade unleaded gas was $1.77 per gallon and an airplane was the safest place to be due to HEPA, etc. Today gas is $4.32 we get a month-long extension so that we can hope that another variant comes along. You’d think Biden would actually want his poll numbers to go up at this point. Maybe it’s like a drug addict where they can’t fix anything until they hit the very rock bottom.

  32. After reading these posts I can now unequivocally state that apparently folks that follow a travel web site are among the softest, ill-informed babies I’ve ever met.

    It’s a mask…it’s soft…and it’s cloth…wow…cruel and unusual punishment there! Such snowflakes all of you Biden haters are! Grab your non-existent you-know-what’s for God sakes!

    I for one will stand with the guy who didn’t think there were planes during the revolutionary war…KNOWS that Finland is NOT a part of Russia…or never said we could cure Covid by drinking bleach or injecting…AND I QUOTE!…”a very powerful light” inside the body.

    Don’t believe me? When was the last time any Secretary of State ever called his boss a “f-in moron”?

    Oh…yeah…but Biden’s the idiot. Hey, did you forget to blame Hillary for the masks too?

  33. WB- apparently you are one of CNN, MSNBC and all of the other lying liberal media liars biggest fans. Both you and Biden are idiots – but you have proven by your posting that you are actually to stupid to recognize that fact. You don’t have to be a genius to see the difference in America today compared to 14 months ago – which means that even you, with your obvious limited mental acuity, should be able to discern. Take a long, hard look into a mirror and you will see what is wrong with America.

  34. Hey WB,
    Guess you conveniently forgot that your idol Obama warned us to never underestimate the ability to Joe Biden to ell-up.
    He sure has delivered on that Obama expectation!!!

  35. @David Miller

    “lying liberal media liars”

    Ever heard of redundancy?

    Face it…your guy lost because he wasn’t smart enough or strategic enough to manage an external threat that landed in his lap. All that was required of Mr. I-can’t-even-make-a casino profitable…was leadership in a time of crisis and panic. But he couldn’t pull that off, could he?

    Hate Joe all you want…it’s just a cover for your guy letting you down because he never had the brains in the first place.

    Oh…and to set the record straight…I am hardly a liberal…just a ‘real’ republican who has seen the scam and doesn’t need to see it ever again!

  36. “It’s a mask…it’s soft…and it’s cloth…wow…cruel and unusual punishment there! Such snowflakes all of you Biden haters are! Grab your non-existent you-know-what’s for God sakes!”

    A good example of Orwell Doublespeak.

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