Is The Air Travel Mask Mandate About To Get Extended Again?

Dr. Fauci wanted masks on planes forever. Since last January I’ve said the mask mandate would end before the November 2022 midterms, because control of both the House and Senate hang in the balance. Amidst high inflation and Russian’s invasion of Ukraine driving up food and energy prices, the Administration needs to declare victory over Covid-19.

The current transportation mask mandate runs through April 18. Airlines have been expecting the mandate to expire. Their lobbying group . American has planned for the return of alcohol sales in coach April 18, to coincide with the lifting of the mask requirement.

A month ago I wrote, though, that one thing could throw a monkey wrench in this plan: an expected uptick in cases by the B.A.2 variant. Europe was already seeing case growth, although experience there suggests it tops out at much lower levels than the recent wave. If cases are growing right as the Administration has to decide whether to lift the mandate, that makes it harder for them to do so.

And cases are just starting to grow, mostly confined to the Northeast. Even Eric Topol isn’t especially concerned.

We’re a week away from the expiration of the transportation mask mandate, and masks are generally required only on planes, trains, buses and automobiles (and in certain backward parts of the country, preschools).

We are, however, no longer in a place where public mandates are needed. Despite the tick up in cases, reported positives remain low.

Most importantly, hospitalizations and ICU admittances are at their lowest level since the start of the pandemic, far lower than in the summer of 2021.

And we’re simply better able to address the current virus than at any point in the pandemic.

  • Vaccines and boosters are available, and hold up against bad outcomes from Covid-19

  • B.A.2, like B.A.1, presents as less severe

  • And it spreads more quickly, masks that meet the regulatory requirement (like cloth masks) probably don’t do much anyway. Masking was important in 2020 both to delay infection (until we had vaccines and treatments) and delay hospitalizations (to preserve capacity) – not so much right now

  • Treatments are available from Paxlovid to Fluvoxamine to Peginterferon Lambda (TOGETHER 3 TRIAL)

Now is the time to wear a good mask properly if you’re concerned – if you’re immunocompromised, elderly, or potentially if you have relevant comorbidities. It’s not the time to impose broad public mandates. We have tools we didn’t have earlier in the pandemic, and enough background immunity from the Omicron wave that we aren’t likely to put pressure on hospitals now.

It is possible of course that we could see a new variant of consequence that is fast-spreading (like Omicron), more virulent (like Delta), and that escapes prior immunity. That would be a huge concern and reason to re-address public health policy from good-quality masks, to variant-specific and pan-coronavirus vaccines, to ramped up treatments.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Dr. Jha – the new Covid Czar (whatever that means) said today that the extension of the mask mandate is on the table. However, it’s up for the CDC to decide and they have still not made a determination.

    My guess? They extend it another two weeks. Citing BA.2 and the ‘uncertainty.’

    Either way, most by now understand the mask mandate on planes is practically useless other than giving the sense of ‘feeling’ safe. Feelings aren’t science, however.

  2. It’s just amazing how we are two years into the pandemic repeating the same debunked science/COVID theater. We see this on very extreme display with the Shanghai lockdowns that are not keeping cases at bay. You see this in the story linked about PHL mask mandate with leaders saying “We need to get ahead of a surge” as if it has worked for the last four waves. When it comes to travel, sure, wearing a cloth mask on a plane isn’t an enormously large ask but where’s the science? The only science even close to being complete was the original United study that looked at cabin air, which basically said regardless of masking, airplanes had exceptionally clean air because of how much recirculation was happening. We somehow moved past the “science” of having to social distance on airplanes, but not with cloth masks. 🙁

  3. I know ur pretty pompous w/ the way u complain about EVERYTHING; but I didn’t know you were a doctor.

  4. Enough of the mask mandate – end it

    People who are concerned can wear one

    So many treatment options available now

  5. Declaring victory over COVID won’t help the Dems in the mid terms. They have sunken too far down the cesspool already.

  6. RESIST!!!! The dems might as well make everyone miserable for as long as they can because come November (really January) The shows over.

  7. scott wood, I’m not a biologist, but I know what a woman is, unlike our next Supreme Court Justice. I can however read studies that tell me that masks are a waste of time. I’m sick and tired of pretending otherwise. Wear your mask if it makes you feel better but don’t expect people like me who can spell to do so too.

  8. Again, Kaibuki theater…if one wants to wear a mask, do so…enough of the BS…I’m sure there are people who, if told to do so, would wear 3 masks in the shower…forever!!

  9. It’s simply too difficult for them to relinquish the powers they’ve acquired during this scam. The mask was always about nothing more than exercing control over the compliant, servile masses.

  10. I bet on a two month renewal until mid June, when seasonality will end the current bump. The mask mandate on planes is not really impacting demand negatively so no reason to lift it for a risk averse admin

  11. `We are, however, no longer in a place where public mandates are needed.’.
    You are not a public health specialist or a medical professional, how about leaving the declarative pronouncements to them? Until we know if the post-vaccinated Covid milder cases do not lead to long Covid problems, some caution is still not a bad idea…

  12. Oh my, here come the comments.
    I’m skipping out on monitoring this one…..

  13. @LK – live your life in fear if you want but don’t tell me what to do. Wear your mask until hell freezes over but don’t expect me to. As for “long COVID” there are risks in every and if you wait until all the info is known (if even possible) it will be YEARS. Get over yourself lib. Wear the mask if you are scared and let those of use that aren’t sheeple take care of ourselves!

  14. BTW Gary Philadelphia isn’t following the CDC recommendation regarding masks but going back to their old metrics regarding cases (not overall impact to the health systems) which have since been proven to not be an effective way to respond to COVID. It isn’t going away so we need to all adjust to the new normal of ongoing cases and 500-1000 deaths a day (mainly very old, immune compromised and those idiots that didn’t get vaccinated). I’m fine living with the risk of COVID

  15. @scott and ws wood

    If Fox News is so backward, then can you explain why, without exception, there is a SMALL MINORITY of people that continue to wear masks in EVERY SINGLE STATE and LOCALITY that has dropped mask mandates?

    It is because the vast majority of Americans – from every 50 states and the DC – recognize that masks aren’t necessary and won’t wear them unless forced to do so.

    If Fox News is where people have to go for common sense, then it is no wonder that they have so much larger of a viewing audience than their competitors.

  16. Since last January I’ve said the mask mandate would end before the November 2022 midterms, because control of both the House and Senate hang in the balance.

    I guess these august US institutions of high(er) learning, which have just acted on their own without waiting for the CDC to weigh in, are also driven by the US elections political calendar and by not genuine public heath concerns. Right, Dr. Leff?

    NY Ttimes, April 11, 2022, 3:33 p.m. ET:

    American University announced on Monday that it would start requiring masks in all campus buildings, including medical facilities and the school’s shuttles, beginning on Tuesday. Professors will be able to remove their masks in classrooms while teaching.

    Columbia University said on Sunday that students would have to wear non-cloth masks in classrooms for the remainder of the spring semester, through May 2, “based on the current situation and in an abundance of caution.”

    Georgetown University announced last week that masks would be required inside any campus buildings until further notice because of campus Covid outbreaks, “particularly among undergraduate students.”

    Johns Hopkins University said last week that it would require masks indoors, along with twice-weekly testing of students, citing that nearly 100 of its more than 5,000 undergraduate students had tested positive since April 1.

    Rice University reinstated its mask policy for classrooms, regardless of vaccination status. Those who are unvaccinated also must continue to wear a mask in other indoor areas.


  17. I still think at some point people just aren’t going to put up with it anymore. I’m substitute teaching a school district where by a 3-2 vote the Board kept the mandate (it was abolished by all the surrounding ones). When I go into the schools I see lots of kids barely wearing them, or not at all, and quite a few office and teaching people ignoring the rule as much as they can. If that’s typical sooner or later we’ll reach a critical mass who have decided, for better or worse, that this is quaint procedure they don’t need. By this point people have other concerns in their lives.

  18. If Fox News is where people have to go for common sense, then it is no wonder that they have so much larger of a viewing audience than their competitors.

    Considering that twice-impeached former US ‘president’ and #1 faux news personality promoted zapping SARS-CoV-2 with laser light to kill it or drinking bleach as cure for COVID-19, I would suggest that faux news‘ larger viewing audience than the competition is a sad reflection of the fact that most low-IQ citizens, who get their ‘news’ mainly from watching cable TV rather than from reading, have more faith in conspiracy theories and wacko ‘medical science’ than they do in modern medicine and the scientific method…[reminiscent of many who post here].


  19. You know that the quoted text from Gary was in regard to the mask mandate on airplanes and you attempted to denounce it by referencing the recently adopted requirements on college campuses. An obvious attempt to change the subject and a clear case of “comparing apples to oranges. One situation is clearly under the purview of the federal government, the other…nope.

  20. @James N — It makes no difference. If masking on significantly more expansive and open college campuses and buildings is considered a preventive or mitigatory measure, it stand to reason that it would be more so in the more confined spaces of airplane cabins.

  21. BTW, I was speaking to the soundness of the masking policy on its own to counter the notion, left over from the previous administration, that politics must always drive public health policy.

  22. DCS,
    you forgot the address the fact that there isn’t a single locality or state where the majority of people remained masked after mask mandates were dropped.
    If the majority of people were wrong about masking, why haven’t case numbers soared?
    Denigrating a news source because you can’t rationally admit that the majority of Americans do not see a need for masking says far, far more about you than the rest of America – the majority of which do not watch Fox News

    And Trump isn’t a Fox News personality. He is a former President of the United States. I am sure that Fox News would love to have any former President on their shows. and the same would be true with CNN, ABC, CBS and the bunch.

  23. @ Tim Dunn — Maybe he is the former POTUS, but he is also a lifelong criminal and a petrological liar.

  24. In the truly backward parts of your country, books are banned and abortions are criminalised through a system of snitching. Like the kgb and stasi used to encourage. Think about the world you’re leaving your child

  25. Gene,
    it is a crying shame that you and others have to reduce every discussion to partisan politics esp. when there is clear evidence that masks have done nothing to slow the spread of covid.
    The majority of Americans don’t use masks unless they are forced to do so.
    When you can wrap your head around that reality, get back w/ us on something that is not just a pathetic political cheap shot.

    Your fellow Americans – the majority of them – know that masks are meaningless.

    Why is it so hard for you to grasp that reality?

  26. @Tim Dunn — I fail to see any logic in your statements. People stopped masking because the authorities, based on the best available evidence, decided that it was safer to relax the masking requirement. The fact that cases did not soar simply means that the authorities made the right call in dropping the requirement. It does not prove whatever you think it proves about the quackery that ‘faux news’ promulgated.

    Faux news is the MAGAchannel, which amplified the “Big Lie” and whatever quackery twice-impeached and disgraced former US ‘president’ called in to promulgate while a show was on the air. It is his channel and he is its personality #1. No other cable news channel show parroted and amplified MAGA stuff.


  27. @ Tim Dunn — I don’t care about masks, but I do care that Trump is a lifelong criminal and pathological liar.

  28. Absolute resistance from here on out is the only answer. At JFK T4 Sunday, 50% non-masked in the terminal. No one is willing to enforce it and they can’t arrest all of us. Time to stand up loudly.

  29. Putting aside all the studies and amateur doctors and biologists we have in the comments I have one simple question on all this. The experts told us back in about March of 2020 that we had to stay home in lockdown because it was too dangerous to be on the golf course, church, grocery store, etc. But they also told us it was very safe to travel in airplanes because of airflow, HEPA, or whatever. Now that we’ve moved into endemic stages of this virus that will be with us into the future and masks aren’t needed at the grocery store in church or on the golf course why are they still needed on airplanes if they are so safe to start with?

  30. Almost all the people getting sick or dying now are people who decided not to take one of the highly effective vaccines. That is their choice and they can live or die with it. Stop imposing restrictions on everyone because some people make that choice. Everyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, and there will be a lot of bitter enders double masking at Zoom meetings (like one friend of mine) for a while yet. The mask mandate on air travel is particularly useless because it does not mandate a high quality mask; the air circulation on planes is better than anywhere else; and people eat and drink on planes anyway. I believe, though, that since case numbers – no longer the metric anyone should care about) -are edging up in the northeast the mandate is likely to continue because of the government’s need to look like they’re doing something, however pointless.

  31. Almost all the people getting sick or dying now are people who decided not to take one of the highly effective vaccines. That is their choice and they can live or die with it. Stop imposing restrictions on everyone because some people make that choice. Everyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, and there will be a lot of bitter enders double masking at Zoom meetings (like one friend of mine) for a while yet.
    — DaveS

    Comments like those are simply idiotic, myopic and revisionist. People are free to kill themselves. They just are not free to take others with them. It’s as simple as that.

    The pandemic threat did not simply decide to abate on its own. Many people worked hard and around the clock to try to limit the damage that could have been done by literally racing to find effective vaccines, while “dynamically” tweaking various mitigation measures, based on scientific evidence, that tried to balance beating the virus at any cost vs. protecting individual liberties. If you want to see what could have been without such a balancing act, all you need to do is to contrast that with China’s “zero COVID” policy. See? You guys had it easy and do not even know it!

    We have almost beaten this thing thanks to people who chose to cooperate with authorities rather than to MAGAland ignoramuses — including their twice-impeached cult leader — who fought from day one every mitigation measure enacted to try to beat the virus. The sad thing? They are still at it as if they learned absolutely nothing during what have been the most transformative couple of years in living memory, if not ever, for those born after WWII.

    All restrictions will be lifted…when rigorous, science-based risk to benefit ratio analyses put the SARS-CoV-2 virus threat to be no greater than, say, seasonal influenza. Until then, just do a favor to every thinking person on the face of this earth who followed the rules that got us where we are today, and shut the hell up!

  32. Mask mandate on airplanes are is based on science, it’s all about control. Wake up and smell the coffee, people.

  33. Covid-19 doesn’t care what you think.

    It only wants to find where it can land, expand and create more covid-19 and develop different variants.

    It doesn’t care about politics, or what cable channel you watch, or how boistrously you express how strong your immune system is.

    It just wants you to breathe in. Deeply.

    That’s all.

  34. Based on the flights I’ve taken in the past three weeks, the mask mandate is not being enforced anyway. I’d say 10-30% in airports aren’t wearing masks and this includes workers, gate agents, etc.

    On board the FA’s still check preflight when they check for seatbelts, but once in the air I’ve seen lots of people take them off to “eat” or “drink” and never put them back on and the FA’s never say a word

  35. Marxists LOVE them some COVID theatre (and lets not forget who invented COVID). Any excuse to do lockdowns, masking, and all of those other infringements on your rights (that haven’t made any difference in transmission rates). So, I’d actually be shocked if the senile puppet’s regime did not do another extension. This isn’t about the virus, it’s about them shoving it up everyone’s butt.

  36. @dcs, Thank you for your kind, well-reasoned words. It is people like you who can’t use a keyboard without resorting to name calling that reduce respect for your point of view. I personally took part in the Moderna trial in mid-2020 that led to those vaccines that we should all be taking and which have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I wore a mask without complaint and encouraged others to do so when there was a need. I never voted for Trump and I think he is a despicable man. Today the CDC says there is no need for masks in most places in the U.S. Yet some cannot let go and keep insisting on controlling others while calling them every name in the book. Follow the science.

  37. @stogieguy7
    “Marxists LOVE them some COVID theatre…”

    Nice straw man there.

    Oh… the plots and conspiracies that must swirl in that fevered brain.

    Please show one documented quote from an actual card-carrying Marxist that said that.

    We’ll wait.

  38. I know this is shocking, but in SD we never had a mask mandate. We literally had dead people piled up in the streets, every child died, and the greatest generation was finally taken out.

    Wait, no that was MSNBC. We are actually doing just fine. Most masks are a joke and do nothing to stop spread, but this is too complicated for Papa Joe.

  39. Speaking as a double-vaxxed, double-boosted US citizen who was an early adopter of wearing face masks despite being told not to by our idiot Surgeon General and that serial liar Fauci….
    The whole face mask thing has run its course, IMO. The senile administration we all are imprisoned with will likely keep the mask mandate in place just as an attempt to distract us all, but really, it’s past its sell-by date.
    If I feel that I am in a risky situation which I cannot remove myself from, I will don a mask, but on a plane, I’m over it.
    But while we are on the subject… I am seriously p*ssed off by being told that despite my status, i.e., citizen, uber vaxxed, I still have to get a day-before COVID test to return to the US from the UK when the idiocracy running this country feel it is OK to relax Title 42 and let the unwashed masses flood over our Southern border without regard to COVID????? Really?
    Posted on the day when even the Saudis get to show us just what idiot they think is in the White House.

  40. Tim Dunn RIght on….
    Gene you are MISINFORMED JOe and Hunter are the REAL CRIMINALS not sure why the libs can’t understand that concept????

Comments are closed.