New Federal Mask Rule Issued Late Friday Night Means Less Mask Wearing On Planes, Not More

I warned you this would happen, but you supported a federal mask mandate anyway. Airlines already required mask-wearing on planes. I told you that if the federal government got involved this would mean fewer options for travels, and less mask-wearing overall. Guess which one of us was right?

Late Friday night the CDC issued its rule for mask-wearing on public transportation and airlines following the President’s executive order asking them to do so.

Currently United, American and Southwest require everyone two years old and above to wear masks, with no exceptions for disability or other health reasons. Delta allows health exceptions with airport consultation with a medical professional and exceptions for young children who cannot wear masks for prolonged periods.

These new rules,

  • Apply to everyone two years of age and older, so there’ll will be no option to fly Delta with a two year old that won’t keep their mask on, even though very young children do not spread the virus to the same extent as adults.

  • Allow exemptions for disability – which United, American and Southwest currently do not – and many conditions aren’t obvious to airline employees upon mere visual inspection. Airlines will be allowed to require medical documentation or consultation, but will have to defer once that’s presented.

  • Apply even to intra-state travel “while boarding, disembarking, and traveling on any conveyance into or within the United States [and] at any transportation hub that provides transportation within the United States.”

  • Allows masks to be removed “briefly” for eating, drinking, going through security as well as taking medication.

  • Tells airlines to “use best efforts” at enforcement up to “at the earliest opportunity, disembarking any person who refuses to comply.”

  • Put the TSA in charge of enforcement with a role for both “other federal authorities” and coordination with “state and local authorities.”

We’ll see exactly how this is implemented in the coming days, however we will see airlines that didn’t used to allow medical mask exemptions beginning to do so as a result of the new federal mask mandate, which means more people without masks than are currently flying today.

Oh, and for those of you who thought at least violating the rule will have criminal penalties not just an airline ban, “[t]he CDC said people violating the order could potentially face criminal penalties but suggested civil penalties would be more likely if needed.”

This new rule, which provides for more exceptions than current airline policy, goes into effect Monday at 11:59 p.m. (so, effectively, Tuesday).

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. If you can get your 2 year old to wear a mask through security and boarding and then they take it off in the middle of the flight when they get cranky and refuse to leave it back on when you keep trying to put it back, the cops will greet you at the end of the flight and arrest you. (Obviously they can’t arrest a 2 year old) and haul you to jail and put the child in foster care. Moral of the story: DO NOT travel with a 2 year old.

  2. I don’t see anything here that says the airlines can’t go beyond these rules. Seems like overreacting or lack of understanding how federal rules work and private sector’s ability to go beyond.

  3. Current studies show that not only are airplanes about the safest place on the planet, but that the majority of contact tracing has demonstrated that the most spread occurs in homes? Did anyone think that getting the government involved would lead to more and better rule making based on science? Bahahahahahaha…….

  4. I am not clear as to your point of view.. maybe because I do not want to believe that any responsible journalist would do ANYTHING to minimize the importance of wearing a mask. The virus spreads easily thru nose and throat secretions that can be stopped by a mask (Make that two masks). The virus kills. Maybe seeing what goes on in an ICU and ER would convince you? It is NOT a pleasant mild disease!

  5. @whenever—There is NO SCIENCE about “mask wearing” ONLY OPINIONS that are fueled by the Doctors ideology. “Following the science” means to most that studies/tests were done that prove uneqivocally that something works or doesn’t work. NO! I did not go to the “link” that you cited because I have clicked on or went to so many links cited by “Mask wearers” that are no more than OPINIONS and these OPINIONS are fueled by the Doctor’s ideology.

  6. How are the airlines going to vet paperwork for a disability? I can create something that looks real enough myself. Are the airline staff now going to be experts on reviewing these disability exceptions? Much easier to verify someone has a mask on correctly. This is the problem with poorly designed laws and mandates. They often do not consider how they will be implemented. On a separate note, If your disability prevents you from breathing with a mask, you really should not be flying without oxygen because an airplane in not a controllable environment for you. If you have claustrophobia or PTSD, I am not sure being stuck on a plane is the best idea. And if you do wear oxygen, you can wear a mask over the nasal cannula. Just having an exception is going to get the worse people to try and find the loop holes and argue more. And these are the people whose hygiene, judgement, and Covid-19 status I trust the lease. Probably the same ones that are going to have a a huge Superbowl party and get sloppy drunk this weekend. But on a final note. I would worry too much. Wear an N95. Plus planes have decent circulation and filtration. Much better than public buildings.

  7. There was ONE test that the Doctor said himself was woefully inadequate. First, not enough people were tested for enough time AND the only masks tested were the N95 and N98 masks. These masks are almost never worn by regular people. Btw, there was a story on the internet yesterday that said we should all wear at least TWO masks. THAT is laughable. Where does it stop? At two, three, four masks? One hundred masks?? This whole “mask wearing” thing has gotten out of control. I will say this. IF a person is infected with the virus and sneezes/coughs on someone else the masks MAY provide some relief. There is no guarantee but the mask MAY–I REPEAT–MAY help.

  8. why do you think masks are bad? they either do nothing or help — so why not wear?
    not everything is a massive conspiracy…

  9. I wish the vast majority of the commenters would step outside of their ‘camps’ for a minute.

    I’m not sure if anyone truly “read” what Gary wrote.
    It’s not a “Law”…it’s a “Rule” issued by a non-elected government “agency”.

    If Congress were truly concerned with the citizens they represent they would be holding hearings and debating legislation about Covid rules & regs. Instead, they are abdicating their responsibility to unelected bureaucrats to make “rules. But, hey, why don’t you whine some more about how the Democrats or Republicans are subverting Democracy, Lying, Cheating, Trying to overthrow the government, etc.? It’s all farcical.
    The people you should be demanding answers from are the US Government and the media, but you let them tell you what they want you to hear.

  10. What’s next? forced vaccines ,PreFlight testing and wearing a mask? I mean where does it end?a year after beginning to supposedly flatten the curve and we’re still flattening the curve?

  11. @Faith YES, we are still wearing masks to avoid overrunning the hospitals. Compliance with such rules has been fairly poor in the USA and consequently we never did “flatten the curve”.

    Nobody is going to force you to get a vaccine, but in the long run you’ll very like either get the shot or the virus; your choice.

  12. Mandates are the real issue, not the actual masks. Our American culture is not normally akin to having our freedoms infringed upon—essrntially mandates void basic liberties. There is no concrete evidence masks prevent all viruses. If one is able to get oxygen wearing a mask, they will be able to get or give a virus along with the oxygen.

  13. “They” are trying to turn us into dumb sheep. I watched a video this morning showing 7 police officers (out of shape) surrounding a man by himself on a beech mediating during a sunny day without a mask. No other people nearby. Not bothering anyone.

    Most of the people getting Covid are the ones who wear masks religiously. Of course, they do nothing to take care of their own health. Overweight, poor diet, high intake of sugars….No D, C, Zinc or the many other non-vaccine treatments

    If you want to find out what is going on with these “vaccines”…….Sign up to watch a free webinar event next Wednesday. With experts in multiple categories. From the same people who sue and win against the CDC, NIH, FDA, courts around the country, etc… Recently winning and had the court force the CDC to remove the “Vaccines do not cause Autism” from their website.

  14. I am glad we finally have someone actually leading our country during this pandemic, not a yahoo who doesn’t believe (and worse, attempts at every turn to discredit it) in science. Yes, there might be a few new loopholes that some a$$holes, who don’t care about killing other people, will try to exploit. But overall, having a national mandate is what is required to quell this virus, IMHO.

  15. @Betty Noyes – I wrote last summer that a federal mask rule would mean exceptions to mask wearing, not more masks. That’s exactly what’s happening.

  16. It is up to each of us to protect ourselves. No amount of government mandates are going to change personal hygiene habits. You either understand the risk and take appropriate steps, or you ignore the risks and endanger yourself and others. People who refuse to wear masks to protect themselves from this disease are like people who refuse to wear helmets to protect their brains. They dont really have anything to protect.

  17. @Mike–Okay, you’re up. PROVE even ONE thing you posted. Show me any studies that state and PROVE that a mask does anything. I am not talking about OPINIONS. I want FACTS. Every time I have posted this all I have got is a bunch of opinions from people that spew their ideology. NO FACTS, just OPINIONS. Not one bit of “science” to back up their OPINIONS. Where is anything you may have? Go ahead…I’ll wait. You cannot comeback with any facts because their is none. Btw, 2 vaccines were delivered at warp speed due to the orders of President Trump. biden has done absolutely NOTHING to make this pandemic any easier. If you want to post political opinions I suggest you post them on a different site. I will stipulate that if a person has this virus and they cough/sneeze on another person AND that other person is wearing a mask it MIGHT help. That is only a “might”. It is just as likely that another person will NOT be affected by any “mask”.

  18. @Ryan – I wrote this before American Airlines and United Airlines both came out with new policies allowing exceptions to masking onboard. So, in fact, I was right!

  19. @Gary: silly, sensationalist and utterly ungrounded story. Surely you can find something useful to write about; perhaps something you even know something about?

  20. This reporter, Gary somebody, is an idiot. Can’t you pick something of value to write about. Masks are important, we’re in a pandemic.

  21. Gary must be a joy to live with. “I told you so, I’m right, you’re wrong.” Loves to rub (opinion not fact) in people’s faces.

  22. Wayne, you are way too deep in your echo chamber. This is not a forum for whether the former or current president was/is correct in their handling of the pandemic, but was an article about how much mask wearing would occur because of the new regulation. The fact that you made it about Trump vs Biden says a lot.
    Regarding your comment about PROOF vs OPINIONS (I see you value your fearless leader’s affinity for ALL CAPS!!! and HYPERBOLE!!!–yeah, look that one up, it has many syllables) there are numerous, peer-reviewed studies showing that mask wearing reduces the amount of both droplets and aerosols that are expelled into the surrounding airspace, which reduces the amount of virus in the air, which reduces the infection rates.
    it’s called science, you should look into it instead of reading biased opinion pieces written by brainless pundits.
    And Gary? you did yourself a disservice here. This column didn’t need to be written at all so that you could pull an “I told you so” moment. The regulation is what it is, but railing against it as government overreach and bad regulations is not the way to address the fact that some a**holes will take a mask off or avoid it because they are all about themselves, much like the folks that try to take “support” pigs, peacocks, iguanas, etc. on a plane.

  23. @Josh
    I would encourage you, and others, to refrain from using the word “Pandemic”. We are NOT in a “pandemic”. It is being used to misinform and scare the public at large.

    Typically a “Pandemic” has a high degree of mortality. Is that the case with Covid-19? No.

    As a group of scientists have said, a pandemic must have a number of factors…
    Wide geographic extension – Yes (Is it widespread)
    Disease movement – No (this refers to easily trackable and traceable)
    High attack rates and explosiveness – No (Large percentages of populations contracting it quickly)
    Minimal population immunity – No
    Novelty – Yes (Is it a unique variant)
    Infectiousness – Yes (Can it be passed from person to person)
    Contagiousness – No (Is it easily transmissable)
    Severity – No (Is the disease debilitating or deadly to a high percentage of those infected)

    Oh, by the way, if you were wondering where I got this information…
    It’s from The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 200, Issue 7, 1 October 2009, Pages 1018–1021, “What Is a Pandemic?”
    Authored by none other than one Anthony S. Fauci.

  24. hmm. Why then does Dr. Fauci call our Covid situation a pandemic? Why does the World Health organization? Perhaps because the actual answers to all your No responses are Yes.

  25. @Birny
    Perhaps because he has a financial stake in the outcome, and the mass vaccine production by the drug companies. (BTW, do you know who Dr. Fauci’s wif is and what she does?)

    If you are going to make statements unsupported by facts, then please provide the proof that:
    1. Covid-19 is debilitating or deadly to a high percentage of those infected;
    2. Covid-19 is easily transmissable, and;
    3. Covid-19 has large percentages of populations contracting it quickly.

  26. @howard, why you so ANGRY??? @Wayne only responded to what another commenter posted. Why do you have to attack him and insinuate he has to go look up one of your “BIG” words, merely bc he seemed to favor something PRES TRUMP accomplished. ???Superiority complex??? or ???prejudiced???

  27. This piece is poorly written. The writer seems to be bragging right from the start! What’s new in this article?

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