Senate Votes To End Air Travel Mask Mandate

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have stopped requiring masks on planes – except when they fly to the United States, because the U.S. government still mandates it. The federal transportation mask mandate was extended through April 18 for no good reason, other than political fear from the Biden administration (that some new variant would come along) and political opportunism (they weren’t yet ready to declare victory and removing the ban will be useful as part of that).

The Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate has now voted 57-40 to overturn the transportation mask mandate. Here’s what to expect,

  • The House of Representatives won’t take up the matter. They don’t want to embarrass the President.

  • However it makes it harder for the administration to extend the mandate again.

The mandate was almost certain to expire April 18, no more extensions. But with mask rules being lifted elsewhere, and with the President’s own party going along with a Republican-led effort in the Senate to overturn the mask mandate, pressure is mounting to see it end.

So Dr. Fauci’s hope to see masking on planes forever and push from some Biden insiders to make it a permanent rule notwithstanding, we’re going to see the end of the transportation mask mandate soon enough.

That still allows passengers to wear masks, of course. I long wanted to wear one during flu season but in the U.S. it seemed too socially unacceptable. That’s no longer the case. I don’t like getting sick because there’s rarely a good time to slow down.

And I was a strong advocate for masks on planes, and for better masks, in 2020. That was before we had vaccines that are highly effective against the severe outcomes we worry about, treatments that keep people out of the hospital and can keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed, and a dominant strain that’s less virulent.

Of course if circumstances change, if we see (1) a variant that escapes vaccines and prior infection, (2) where treatments are less effective, and (3) masks are actually protective against it then requiring masks could make sense again – though likely in restaurants and bars before planes, and only where it makes sense as par of a broader suppression strategy when health care capacity is at risk

The Senate bill was introduced by Rand Paul (R-KY) and received support from Democrats Michael Bennet (CO), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Jon Tester (MTT), Mark Kelly (AZ), Joe Manchin (WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Jacky Rosen (NV) and Maggie Hassan (NG). Republican Mitt Romney (UT) voted against.

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. For once I totally agree. Covid has been politicized to bad effect. I will wear masks on planes to protect my health also, particularly when there is an occupied seat right next to me

  2. Biden said he’d immediately veto this action.

    Nobody likes this mandate.

    One more nail in Biden’s re-election coffin.

    If he runs again, he’ll never get re-elected.
    UNLESS Trump gets re-nominated, which I think is highly unlikely.

  3. Now if we could end this insane negative COVID test requirement for returning passengers we could get a little closer to normalcy.

  4. Remember, members of Congress fly a lot so they think they’re experts. Not saying they’re right on wrong on this vote, but they also have their own reasons.

    But not only will it not be taken up by the House, but it would be vetoed by the president if it got there and given today’s vote, would clearly be sustained.

    But you’re right that the administration really can’t extend it past April now.

  5. The only time I caught the “flu” and got sick was from being on an airplane where everyone was wearing the mask this past December.

  6. Watching LGB and the weak House deliberate anything is embarrassing. Even a few Dems in the Senate think the mask charade should be terminated. But for Joe its all about the “science”.

  7. The resident doesn’t need help embarrassing himself, he does a good job on his own. The House won’t take it up because the majority support control of the people to continue.

  8. Sadly Americans are so weak they can’t even stand to wear a mask for a few hours while flying. Freedom of choice should extend to doctors and dentists too – no good reasons they should be masking during surgery if masks don’t work. Also these laws about employees required to hand washing after using bathroom is insane. People will figure out where to eat once they get sick at some places and not others.

  9. Time to end this stupid mandate. Of course Old Joe and, most of the Democrats in the House and Senate are opposed. They only reason a few Democrats voted for removing mask mandates is because they are up for reelection this November. And then there is idiot RINO Romney who’s totally out of touch! Time to also end the testing requirement for entry when flying into the country. The thousands walking in by way of the Rio Grande aren’t being tested!

  10. People who hate the mask mandate should not fly. Enough already with the complaining.

  11. @goawaycovid
    Try wearing a mask for the duration of a 15 hour flight, including trying to sleep before advocating for continuing the mask mandate. If you believe a piece of cloth on your face protects you, go ahead and do so. Just leave the rest of us to make our own decision.

  12. It’s funny…

    I haven’t caught the usual seasonal cold or flu since March 2020. Because masks.

    But somehow, the “masks don’t work” folks are all in a tizzy to the point of obsession.

    Ok. Nice. Now it’s not mandatory. But people are still dying every day from COVID-19 in the USA. And mask mandate or not, that is the reality.

    You may not agree because, well… YOU haven’t been sick (or died). But that’s much like saying that Antactica doesn’t exist because you’ve never been there.

    Endemic doesn’t mean it’s over… it means we didn’t stop it and now we have to live with it.

    According to the CDC data, in two years we have lost 992,302 fellow Americans. (So, not “like the flu”)

    Who knew that a modern day Scrooge would find such an easily manipulated group in the USA, willing to gleefully cheer the elimination of the surplus population.

  13. I wear my KN95 masks quite successfully on long flights (LHR-LAX, DFW-HNL etc) with no problem. True it can make your ears a bit uncomfortable at times but I figure it is a small price to pay avoid Covid and still be able to travel for business. The cloth masks were rubbished by out Lt Governor in Hawaii who is a physician, as being useless for preventing Omicron transmission. Many forget that the Japanese have been wearing masks on Public Transportation for years to avoid infecting others when they have colds and flu. However it will become personal choice and I value my health more than a slight inconvenience. If I test positive for Corona Virus I cannot travel so I would lose business.

  14. There is a free market solution to this. Are you vaccinated and wear a mask? Low insurance premiums. You didn’t get vaccinated by choice? No coverage. Vaccinated by refuse to wear a mask? Higher premiums.

    Why should it pay tax dollars to some yooddle who is overweight and wants to eat at Arbys daily without vaccination or masks. Time to cull the herd.

  15. First, worn masks on planes LONG before covid. Susceptible to anyone within 100 miles with respiratory infection. Don’t recall anyone giving me a 2nd look. I’ll still wear them I’d I need to.

    Second, in 2020 had BHM-JFK-DXB-MLE flight. 36 hours of transit in a mask 95% of the time. It was miserable but doable. Don’t look forward to repeating that.

    Let US decide when and where to wear a mask. If you feel vulnerable, wear one. If you don’t, then go ahead.

  16. @Freedombaby

    Yes. Because in your warped version of science those things are exactly equivalent. Good, great, you’re awesome and enlightened. Let’s test it…

    Per the CDC more children have died from drowning in the last 24 months than from Covid. Shall we cement in all the pools? Why not? Do you hate children? Would the slight inconvenience of no more pools not exceed the value of even one child’s life? Or can we accept that not everything is simple and equivalent?

    You won’t. But most of us will. So enjoy your soon to be maskless flights. I hope the fear of it keeps you and your ilk at home indefinitely.


  17. It’s fascinating to see the significant number of uninformed individuals who still believe in the efficacy of face diapers and the experimental gene therapies. It makes one wonder if they’ve ever done any research outside of their teevee.

  18. @James N

    Look up “confirmation bias”.

    Those who choose to “do their own research” tend to find information that confirms their views… however, those that “do there own research” tend not to have the knowledge set to separate scientific miracles (MRNA vaccines) from absolute bulletin (anti-vax/anti-mask profiteers)

    But, America tends to keep moving forward, even either the ignorant insisting on being anchors. We used to eonder why the Spanish flu had fools that rejected infection theortheory… now we know.

    Not surprisingly, red states have a 50% better chance of dying… maybe that is why America keeps moving forward.

  19. @James M – Trump is virtually certain to run in 2024, and if he does he is a lock to get the nomination. And, as things stand now, he beats Biden.

  20. If you are scared of Covid or getting sick, you shouldn’t be flying. You should drive or take a private jet.

  21. Known for over 50 years, a surgical or n95 is utter garbage for stopping a 0.1 micron aerosolized virus. You can continue to live in your antiscientific bubble, as long as you NEVER AGAIN support the forcing of others to follow your nonsense.

  22. #Freedombaby for someone who says their first name is “freedom,” you don’t understand freedom at all. Mask-haters aren’t weak; they are strong enough to know — and say — the government telling you to sacrifice your freedom for no reason for even a few hours goes against every bone in a free person’s being, and every bone in a free person’s body. Let (mask) freedom ring!

  23. “Freedombaby” you can now change your name to the “socialist kid”. You are growing up fast and fit well into the current administration. I predict big things for you in the future.

  24. Richard not sure where you get your polling data from? Most likely CNBC which is nothing more than a 24 hour infomercial for the Democratic Party. Where I live masks are voluntary and in most indoor venues less than 40% of the population wear them including the airport

  25. @James N
    Of course you’re on here because Gary said something about masks or covid. However, your so-called research has been discredited by everyone. All that bs you posted lacks credibility. I’ll take people who have worked almost their entire lives in their field over some shit-heel uncredited fool.
    Teevee? What are you a kindergartner? Teevee?

  26. @Brian L.
    As a former Republican who always voted straight GOP, I hope “Chump” gets nominated again so he can get his ass beat by anyone. Sleepy Joe and Hilary both beat “Chump.” You know that’s what everyone said the last time, “Chump beats Biden easily”. Ha!Ha!Ha!

  27. We are in Barcelona Spain, right now, You have to wear a mask on public transport and in hotels, except if you are in a hotel lounge (like Regency Club). Coming from North Carolina it feels ridiculous.
    We flew MIA-GOH-ZNZ back in October in J – no masks were enforced. And I agree 100%. This face must end.

  28. “However, your so-called research has been discredited by everyone.”

    Where? The evidence is clear, face diapers don’t work and the experimental gene therapies are a joke. The head of Pfizer is calling for a fourth shot in a little over a year. Four shots? Yeah, that sounds like something that is a huge success. For gosh sakes, get your head out of your arse and actually do a little research.

  29. @James N
    Your head must be in your arse as you have no cred. No one pays any attention to you. What don’t you understand?

  30. For all my future surgeries and visits to the ER I am going to demand that the surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses not wear any masks. Apparently they’ve been lied to for 100 years about masks (effective ones like N95, not cloth) being necessary to reduce the chances of spreading airborne infectious diseases.

  31. First of all, of you feel that you have have to wear a mask – just do it. I have not problem with YOU doing it. Personally, I do have problems with my sensitive skin around my nose and mouth. I flew about 130k miles during the last 12 months and I do not care about your mask “mandate”.

  32. I am 100% for he mask mandate. I will continue to mask up. It’s easy and it bothers me as much as wearing pants.

    However, that being said, I also understand the choice factor. So, put me down as “wear one if you want”…”don’t if you don’t”.

    But, enough with the plan-demic talk and Covid is not “real” nonsense. Tell it to the widow of my perfectly healthy neighbor who caught Covid and died last spring.

    If the mask mandate is over…it’s over. So be it. But, the rest of us have our freedoms too…and will continue to mask up for our own good.

  33. “No one pays any attention to you.”

    Well, you obviously do. Look, you’re wrong again. What a shock.

  34. To get away from all the commenters calling each other names and back to the topic, the point is masks on planes are no longer needed and thus any mandate should go. We have highly effective vaccines now and those who want to protect ourselves can do so. Imposing restrictions when risk is high may be defensible. Maintaining them when risk is low is not.

  35. There is no virus and even if there were these stupid masks would not stop it. The big scary number of 900k+ deaths from the fictitious disease of COVID19 is the result of applying a completely fake test that is proof of nothing, it’s reassignment of cause of death from the real cause to the fake test results that says you are infected with a non-existent virus.

    The mask is a tool to condition the masses, to comply, to submit to totalitarianism, and taking the fake vaccine into your body.

  36. Hey John Sutter: I bet you still think the world is flat too, huh?

    Do us all a favor…when you get sick (from anything)…please show us the tough guy you really are…refuse medical treatment and tell the doctors you refuse to submit to “totalitarianism”.

    My guess? You’ll go crying like a little baby begging for some 21st century medical science. Too bad doctors take an oath to help you anyway. If it were up to me…I’d kick your sorry butt to the street.

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