Philadelphia’s Mask Rules Still Apply At The Airport – But Not All The Terminals Are In Philadelphia

The federal transportation mask mandate was vacated by a federal district judge on Monday. Rather than appealing and seeking to stay that order, the Biden administration decided to simply terminate enforcement.

That doesn’t mean masks are no longer required. Individual travel providers may still require them. U.S. airlines all required masks before the federal government did. However most airlines and airports lifted their mask requirements almost immediately.

Philadelphia recently re-imposed an indoor mask mandate, and as a result the Philadelphia airport announced that it still requires masks in order to comply.

Except not all of the Philadelphia airport is under the jurisdiction of Philadelphia. Terminals A East and A West (along with two runways, and gates end the end of the B Concourse) are actually in Tinicum Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Terminal A is used by American (though the bulk of their operations are out of other terminals) as well as British Airways, Lufthansa, and Qatar Airways.

Housing the airport in two counties creates jurisdictional nightmares, for instance when airline lounges go to get liquor licenses or have those renewed, or when concessionaires collect and remit local taxes, like a soda tax passed in Philadelphia six years ago that applied in only part of the airport. Newark airport faces similar administrative challenges.

The airport authority isn’t drawing this distinction for communicating masking rules. As the airport authority tells it, passengers must now wear masks inside the terminal but can take those masks off once on the plane.

That may even make some scientific sense, since terminals lack the HEPA air filtration, downward air flow, and rapid air exchange that aircraft afford. United Airlines commendably made a pandemic practice of running aircraft auxiliary power units on the ground to take advantage of these features during boarding and deplaning. American, which operates a hub at Philadelphia, did not.

Meanwhile you can take Philadelphia-area public transit to get to the Philadelphia airport without a mask, put the mask on inside the terminal, and then take it off on the plane.

While Philadelphia airport is saying masks are still required because of the city mandate, the rule applies to the airport itself at least in terminals B, C, D, E and F. They are required to impose a masking requirement, and have done so airport-wide, though it’s largely toothless. Philadelphia’s enforcement against businesses that fail to require masks has been modest at best throughout the pandemic, though some restaurants were ordered to close in 2021 for refusing to comply. And the city would face legal difficulty penalizing its own airport for failing to enforce masking in terminal A.

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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Comments

  1. Chicago airports and transportation are also stating that masks are still required due to an IL executive order by the governor, though it’s unclear how this will be enforced.

  2. The Democrat fascists have lost power the majority of Americans are not going to comply with their disproven mask rules.

  3. Centurion Lounge is in A. Wonder if the employees there (who were borderline insane with mask enforcement when compared to other lounges) will still keep that up

  4. @Koggeri ah yes, fascism is requiring people to wear masks, not, say, trying to overturn a free and fair election.

    (And I’m fine with the mask mandate going away).

  5. So I suppose when landing or taking off from PHL (plane out of the terminal gate), I should use the GPS on my phone to figure out if the plane is currently in Philadelphia city limits or not based on the taxi position or runway it is at on airport property. Have to be strategic about when to turn the phone into or out of airplane mode in order to make this determination of when the mask must be worn. Insane!

  6. @DMNYC
    Forcing people to wear masks when it’s been proven they don’t work is.

    Also Biden stole the election.

  7. There was no enforcement at PHL before the federal mandate dropped and none will care now.

  8. Siempre uso una máscara. No era un requisito a principios de 2020, pero tenía máscaras, así que las usé. Suelo resfriarme después de cada dos vuelos, incluso en verano. Pero en los últimos 26 meses, después de decenas de vuelos, no he tenido ni un resfriado. Tal vez los japoneses tengan razón. Use una máscara y no contraerá enfermedades respiratorias.

    Pero creo que la situación en la que British Airways y EasyJet suspendieron el uso de máscaras y, posteriormente, tuvieron muchas cancelaciones debido a llamadas por enfermedad es un mejor ejemplo de lo que PUEDE suceder. Todas las cancelaciones de vuelos de las aerolíneas estadounidenses durante las vacaciones de Navidad se atribuyeron a la variante Omicron. Ahora que tenemos 2 variantes que son incluso más infecciosas que Omicron… bueno, ¿quién sabe qué pasará? ¡Solo recuerda que nadie es invencible ante el Covid!

  9. My flights connected through Charlotte and Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Today, I visited the Centurion Lounge® by American Express at the CLT and PHL airports, where I had connecting flights. At 9:55 AM, at the Centurion Lounge check-in at CLT, the cheerful American Express lounge representatives advised Card Members that wearing face masks were optional.

    However, at PHL, the AMEX Centurion lounge agents were mandating face masks for all Card Member entry when I arrived at 3:00 PM. They had the demeanor of an American Airlines flight attendant. I brought up the comment about Terminal A at PHL being outside the city. The representative advised that Philadelphia regulates the entire airport regarding masking mandates.

    Accordingly, American Express membership still has privileges but apparently, fewer privileges if visiting the Philadelphia Centurion Lounge at PHL. Paying much more for the AMEX Black Card (Centurion Card) doesn’t matter because all PHL Card Members must mask up and cover their mouth and nose (except when eating and drinking).

    But there is good news. Face masks are not free because AMEX workers are told to use the word “complimentary” instead of saying “free.” Consequently, receiving a complementary AMEX disposable face mask is just one more reason thousands of Card Members think it is worth paying the annual fee of $695.00 for the AMEX Platinum Card. Therefore, don’t leave home and visit the PHL Centurion Lounge Without It.

  10. @Ken A,

    Wow what nonsense that the Lounge agent told you “Philadelphia regulates the entire airport regarding masking mandates.”

    If the city government could only collect the soda tax on the portion of the airport within city limits a few years ago, then they dont have the jurisdiction to mandate masks in delaware county either!

  11. Are we sure the city of Philadelphia doesn’t cross county lines? Lots of cities in Texas do….

  12. @Luke: I am still in the PHL Centurion Lounge. At 5:00 PM this AMEX Centurion lounge made a public address announcement saying all people in the lounge must wear a mask unless they are eating or drinking.

    If the PHL Centurion lounge would repair their out-of-service Eversys Swiss Espresso system coffee machine, more people would be making and drinking cappuccinos so they would have a higher rate of mask compliance since it would increase the population of Card Members exempt from masking requirements.

  13. @Tim j
    I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be poor of dumb. I’m not a leftoid democrat. I payed more on income taxes last year that most demons made all year.

  14. To Gary’s point in this and prior posts, there are over a dozen non-US airlines that still impose a mask mandate when traveling to / from the US. It’s not the government imposing it.

    SFO is wholly outside the City and County of San Francisco, yet the City and County of San Francisco governs SFO. It would seem the same applies to PHL.

    Just so we know what *the* word means: a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism. Using *the* word improperly displays ignorance and is divisive.

    And, just to be clear about which side of the fence I sit, I am in favor of removing the mask mandate.

  15. Koggerj, you might want to check your sentence structure and spelling prior to submitting comments. (I’m not a leftoid nor a Democrat.)

  16. @Luke the City of Philadelphia owns PHL (even if part of it is in Delaware County), and of course has a lot of influence in airport-wide policy. It makes sense that the airport is applying the policies of the local government that owns it.

    Also, I imagine it is easier to apply the restriction airport-wide, as they don’t want to have to apply different enforcement standards in a terminal where people travel freely across county lines.

    The airport as an entity itself probably has the authority to do what it wants. LACK of a mask mandate in Delaware County does not mean that an establishment in the county cannot impose its own restrictions. And the lack of a federal mandate does not mean that local governments and entities cannot enact their own policies, either.

    Not really arguing for a mandate, here, but just noting that the airport, both as its own entity and because it is owned by the City of Philadelphia, can really do what it wants here.

  17. It’s hilarious watching travel blogs and comments like the person directly above talking about what “makes sense” when they have zero knowledge of anything whatsoever in the legal field.

    Crimes committed in parts of terminal A and the customs area are prosecuted in Delaware County, why????? Because it’s in…. Delaware County. That’s how jurisdiction works.

    Philadelphia airport police can’t enforce a Philadelphia (a City of the 1st Class that is not part of Delaware County) mandate outside of the city of Philadelphia because….. it’s not part of the city of Philadelphia.

  18. AA employees that work in A also don’t have to pay the city wage tax (aka city income tax) which has led to physical fights about work assignments on multiple occasions over the years. If you see an AA gate agent with a broken nose PHL Terminal A is good guess for the cause.

  19. Philadelphia city limits = Philadelphia County limits.

    Nobody gives a shit of democrat clown major, we don’t wear masks indoors and stupid fat major can do nothing about it!!!

  20. @Jared I do have knowledge of LOTS of things whatsoever in the legal field.

    I never said anything about Philadelphia police and their jurisdiction. I agree that they don’t have jurisdiction in Delaware County. But enforcement does not mean arrest. And the entity that is Philadelphia International Airport (a separate legal entity owned by the City of Philadelphia) can actually implement its own policies, and can choose to adopt the policies of the City of Philadelphia.

    PHL actually has its own police department (much like other entities like universities have their own fully sanctioned police departments), the Philadelphia Airport Police, who CAN arrest people in whatever terminal, and who can enforce the policies of the airport.

    Whether they WILL enforce anything is a different question. But the complicated jursidictional situation of the airport in no way prevents them from adopting an airport-specific policy on their own grounds.

  21. I’ve been flying to PHL since 1993 (the last BIG renovation . . .I remember when it started, added the teal strips to the flooring. . .LOL)PHL never stops finding a way to amaze me. They should just bulldoze the entire place and start over. AA’s huge Admirals Club between B&C is it’s only saving grace.

  22. @DMNYC

    Still incorrect. Enforcement of any law is through fines or arrest.

    Extraterritorial jurisdiction is not a thing in Pennsylvania for PHL. It simply doesn’t exist under Commonwealth law

  23. Just a frame of reference here, the cargo part of PHL, Cargo City, is in Tinicum Township and buildings there have a different address. The three main operators in Cargo City: FedEx, USPS and AA (predecessor Allegheny) wanted Cargo City to not be in Philly because of the city wage taxes. But every regulation and rule of the airport, applies to Cargo City. Because once one goes beyond the customer contact areas, then everything is considered airside. Airside (the ramp) is under airport rules.

  24. @Koggerj, the misinformation you’ve spouted here isn’t going to sway anyone with an ounce of integrity and brain power. Peer reviewed study after peer reviewed study say just the opposite of your 200 Pinocchio statement that masks don’t work, that high quality face masks (N95, KN95, KF94) significantly protect the wearer from others and others from the wearer with regard to the transmission of COVID-19.

    Here’s an example published in the prestigious journal Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
    https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abd9149

    I quote, “Universal masking is an effective and economical way to block virus-laden aerosols. Model simulations show that masks effectively prevent asymptomatic transmission and reduce the total number of infected individuals as well as mortalities as a result of COVID-19.”

    I’m sure you’re likely going to next say that the vaccines for COVID are worthless, another lie from the extreme right.

    For me, I’ll continue to seek out the facts.

  25. @DMNYC, yep, you’re right.

    PHL is wholly owned by the City of Philadelphia (Yes the City and County of Philadelphia have the exact same physical borders.) and operates as an independent agency of the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, Division of Aviation. The Airport is 100% self-sustaining and uses no local tax dollars. With purchases of land at the west end of the airport over the last decade, well more than half the total acreage of the airport is physically located in Delaware County, PA, though the vast majority of the terminal itself and the parking lots are located in Philadelphia.

    While much of the airport is in Delaware County, the entirety of the airport, including the land in Delaware County is owned by the City of Philadelphia. As such, whether or not Delaware Country has a mask mandate, the Phila. International Airport as owner of the airport can legally require their own mask mandate for visitors, passengers, employees, employees of other companies working in the airport, etc.

    By agreement between counties, the Philadelphia Police Department patrol the entire airport and the Philadelphia Fire Department provides all fire and rescue services at the airport. Prosecution of crimes at PHL is split between the Federal government, Philadelphia County and Delaware County (as has been said elsewhere in the comments here.)

  26. The word coming out of Philadelphia City Hall is that the mask mandate will be ending in Philadelphia on Friday, April 22 as hospitalizations have dropped substantially this week within the City.

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