Will The Air Travel Mask Mandate Be Extended – Again – In Two Weeks?

The federal transportation mask mandate was set to expire March 18. That was delayed by a month, even though CDC guidance on masks was that nearly everyone in the country could stop wearing masks indoors.

Now the April 18th expiration is being pushed back by two weeks. A two week extension shows that the Administration wants the mandate to end but is scared to do it. The extension is meant to “monitor for any observable increase in severe virus outcomes as cases rise in parts of the country..out of abundance of caution.”

But in two weeks,

  • It’s likely cases will be higher than they are today. That’s not a huge problem with a less virulent strain, with vaccines and treatments that protect against bad outcomes, as well as so much background immunity from prior infection already.

  • But it may be too early to see much change in hospitalization data. Cases overall in the country are only days into rising (while they’ve been rising in the Northeast for longer). Two weeks of data may not give them the information that lets them ‘have permission’ to let the mandate lapse.

That would suggest they might extend it again for another few weeks to see what’s happening and get more data. If they’re afraid of what happens next, that’s not likely to change in two weeks.

Now, a two week extension is also likely the most they could agree on internally given pressure to lift mandates as we head into summer, in time to be a part of positive narratives going into midterm elections. There’s a lot of pressure to end the mandate, when people aren’t wearing masks in much of the country indoors, where the Senate (Democrat-controlled, and with some D-votes) passed legislation to lift the mandate though that legislation has zero chance of being taken up by the House.

A two week extension is a cop out. It frames the issue as though it were some sort of meaningful firewall against spread when It doesn’t actually do anything to wear masks on planes and almost nowhere else. That doesn’t meaningfully affect spread (even if people voluntarily wore N95 masks on planes instead of cloth masks) and it doesn’t meaningfully affect hospitalizations. It’s a strange place to focus on while indoor concerns, restaurants and bars continue apace.

It’s political fear, ultimately, and not scientific judgment that dictates when the mandate gets lifted. So the relevant question is whether two weeks from now the Administration’s fear of the midterms will outweigh their fear of ‘being wrong’ about the direction of the pandemic and being blamed for lifting a restriction that did little to alter the course of the pandemic in the first place.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Did not realize that you are a doctor and researcher ? What is the big deal extending the mandate for two weeks.? Cases are on the tis

  2. If we used strictly scientific criteria, we’d either keep a mask mandate OR we would have a far more effective vaccine passport system and only vaccinated people would be allowed to fly.

  3. Patrick – are you a doctor and a researcher? Leff isn’t, and has been called out for that here, but the above is completely valid. YOU want a mask, YOU wear one. Leave the rest of us alone.

  4. Is there a credit card hack that makes you uniquely qualified to comment on impact of masks on spread of disease? Didn’t think so. Please stick to pitching credit cards. Lots of reasons to wear a mask and plenty of reasons to say enough already. That Gary “thinks” so isn’t one of them.

  5. There’s a difference between “plenty of reasons to wear a mask” vs. “plenty of reasons to tell everyone else what to do”. One involves personal autonomy and the other involves the desire to control other people to improve your situation.

    Reminds me of a friend I used to have years ago who advocated for mandatory helmet laws – for people riding in cars. Because it was for their own good and it would marginally reduce his car insurance rates. But no, he didn’t voluntarily wear one on his own.

  6. Mask wearing isn’t enforced in most airports except at TSA checkpoints and people are starting to realize that. So that leaves aircraft as the only venue with strict enforcement. Given that airline CEOs came out against the mask extension perhaps they should reconsider how strictly they will enforce the Federal mandate.

  7. My god this lunacy has reached epic proportions. These covid cultists, brainwashed by big pharma, just can not let go. END THE NONSENSE.

  8. Perhaps Biden should talk to his European colleagues. See how they handle mask wearing and testing.
    Because as it look now, the USA is simply dragging its feet for no sane reason.

  9. It has nothing to do with Covid. Its all about Democratic control of US. I originally predicted that they would remove the mandate as we get closer to the mid term elections however, as Biden’s approval numbers continue to go in the tank, it may be removed sooner than later.
    We will find out over time that the masks had no effect and that the vaccines were worthless, as evidenced by people getting Covid who have had multiple vaccines.
    Natural immunity will be the only prevention to the virus.

  10. Wearing a N95 mask on a plane flight is a real pain in the neck (literally!) when removing those two straps over the head to eat or drink. On the otherhand, the KN95 mask is easy peasy to take on and off the two straps on your ears. While the KN95 is not as protective as an N95, it offers more protection than a surgical type mask and way more protection than a cloth mask.

  11. It is nothing less than mindboggling and just a reflection of how clueless and out of touch the clown in the White House and his stooges are thinking these senseless extensions will somehow mitigate the massive blowback they will endure as the result of the upcoming elections. By now everyone has seen through their agenda and pulling the mandate just before November will do nothing to stop the **** storm that will engulf them.

  12. More pandemic prognostication from noted epidemiologist and political scientist Gary Leff.

    Folks, not a single predication Gary has made on either the course of the pandemic or the course of the US transportation mask mandate has been correct.

    Get your credit card advice from Gary if you so choose. The rest of this isn’t worth the paper is printed on.

  13. Gary is correct. One does not have to be an epidemiologist to comment on the data. And the unelected, cognitively declining epidemiologist to whom our government has abdicated control over our freedom and lives (cough-Fauci-cough) has been wrong a lot more often than Gary.

    Masks mandates and lockdowns have been failures. The long term data from places like South Dakota and Sweden, that NEVER mandated and never locked down are not materially different from places where mandates and lockdowns were the most extreme.

    The only basis for a mandate or a lockdown is if there are severe outcomes due to a lack of emergency room or ventilator resources. For the vast majority of America, that NEVER happened even at the nadir of the pandemic, nor has that happened anywhere in America in the past 12 months.

    Let (mask) freedom ring!

  14. Let’s get back to talking how bad our domestic airlines are who sets a better table etc both Delta and lost money last quarter

  15. I’m only an amateur biologist but even I can tell that we got sold a bag of lies back in early 2020 that enabled airlines to keep flying because of HEPA, etc. Fast forward to now and airplanes must be the most dangerous place on the planet if we still require masks on them by government mandate.

  16. @Bob – “not a single predication Gary has made on either the course of the pandemic or the course of the US transportation mask mandate has been correct.”

    I wrote that the mask mandate would be extended, and it was. I wrote in June 2020 that we’d have vaccines approved and in distribution by the end of the year, a fairly bold claim at the time that was correct. I can count dozens of predictions that were correct, though in spring 2021 I did not see the Omicron wave coming that much is true, and I did not expect the vaccines we have to be as effective against symptomatic infection as they were in winter/spring 2021.

  17. @BOb
    Folks, not a single predication Gary has made on either the course of the pandemic or the course of the US transportation mask mandate has been correct.

    Same can be said for you lord and messiah Fauci

  18. Far past time to bring back individual choice. If you want to wear a mask, great. If you want to wrap yourself in Saran wrap, great. If you want to not wear a mask, great. Do what makes sense for yourself. Any other position is infeasible over all but the shortest of terms, and frankly has no logical counterpoint, either, as any mask that would actually be effective against Covid would be effective if you chose to wear it vs. forcing others to wear it.

  19. You don’t have to go to war to save American lives. All you have to do is wear a mask. That’s way too much to ask for some.

  20. john – some lives aren’t worth saving. e.g. you. You can wear a mask if you want. Time has passed to impose it on everyone else, especially when it’s only in a subset of locations like a flight, and in a subset of time, when not eating (do you see your stupidity yet?).

  21. Fred, Gee, so sorry to have rained on your self-centered parade. Help us understand what it is about wearing a mask to cover your mouth and nose that is too much for you to take.

  22. @john I’m not Fred, but I would say it’s very uncomfortable to wear a mask for long lengths of time, and inconvenient if you wear glasses as well. It also makes it cumbersome to eat or drink and difficult to communicate with other people when necessary. Most of us are vaccinated, many are boosted, and the virus has proven for the vast majority to not be a really big deal health-wise (I obviously acknowledge for older folks and those with comorbidities, it can be a serious matter). All of those, especially when combined, provide plenty of justification for not wanting to wear a mask. That doesn’t make those folks selfish, or render them monsters. Again, there’s nothing stopping those with a particular level of concern over the virus from wearing one themselves.

  23. I think if it weren’t for brotherly love Philly not suddenly passing a ridiculous face diaper mandate this week, it wouldnt have triggered an extension from TSA who I believe decided to follow their example. I believe some other far left/blue cities will soon follow (in next week or two) with their own indoor mask mandates (SF, LA, Boston, etc)

  24. Wear a mask? Show me they work and are not theater.


    I’ll follow the science, thanks.

  25. All the ones who want us to keep wearing masks for two more weeks/forever have truly convinced them selves it is about “the science”. However. it is really about their absolute fear of the virus, and something out of their control–the virus and most of the population. This absolute fear is rapidly translating in to a long term phobia (if it hasn’t already) for these types.

  26. Yes, because it’s about control and conditioning. Will your pants stop a gas? Enough said!

  27. @1KBrad well thanks for settling the argument for everyone. The center for Neurology and Spine in Glendale AZ says masks are bad. I’m sold.

  28. “YOU want a mask, YOU wear one. Leave the rest of us alone.”

    SPOT ON. I am so tired of the mask theater. Remember, the CDC website says that masks, “may be helpful.” May be? Then, they also may not be, right? I guess that’s the science talking there from the much vaunted CDC: “may be helpful.” that is hardly trust inspiring.

    In the final analysis, this is all political. Dementia Joe, He Whom The Pooping Bird Hates, is doing this to kow tow to his alarmist friends, trying his best to never let a good crisis go to waste. The thing is, the longer he holds on, the more voters will slip through his fingers. The average American sees the lunacy of allowing potentially millions of unvaccinated illegal aliens into the country while making American citizens follow mask mandates. DO NOT tell me that I must get vaccinated when illegals are just allowed to stroll on in without any medical clearances or checks. Where’s the vaccine passport for them, Joe? Probably on Hunter’s laptop from Hell.

  29. @Jerry: Why don’t you look at the 150 different, independent studies the article references?

    Where is your proof to the contrary?

    Funny how states with severe mask mandates have done no better than those without.

    Some just like drinking the Kool Aid.

  30. Jon, What you mention are inconveniences. You aren’t saying those inconveniences are too much to bear are you? When it comes to saving a life, being unwilling to accept those some inconvenience most definitely makes someone selfish. Masks protect others by limiting (not totally eliminating) the amount of virus an infected person emits. Masks protect the one who is wearing it to a lesser extent.

    To get the most out of the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask, people should wear a good mask. I wear a KN95 mask in public. it is better than a N95 mask that is horribly inconvenient to wear. N95s have straps that go behind the head. Putting on a N95 and taking one off requires some effort. Also, women and men who like their dos object because they mess up your hair.

    KN95s have straps that are secured behind the ears. That makes them easy to put on and take off like a cloth mask while providing substantially greater protection than a cloth mask. KN95s work fine with my reading glasses. I’ve worn and slept in KN95 masks for several TPAC flights of 12+ hours taking them off to eat and drink. Comfort was never an issue. On a couple of domestic flights I wore a N95, and that was uncomfortable but tolerable. I switched to KN95 after that.

    Healthy people can very easily be infected asymptomatically and spread the virus without knowing it. We don’t know who we are next to in public or what their health status is. If there is a lot of virus in the air wearing a mask, even good ones, won’t guarantee protection for at-risk individuals.

    As I’ve said, if it were possible to know which individual infected someone who got sick or died, I doubt we’d have so much resistance to wearing masks and following other public health recommendations and requirements. Potential criminal and civil liability not to mention personal moral responsibility would lead people with common sense to take precautions.

    Tuberculosis is a disease that spreads like SARS-CoV-2. TB bacteria are spread through the air when a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings. There are many cases dating back decades imposing civil and criminal liability for spreading TB. With TB it is easier to pinpoint the cause of infection than with the Covid virus.

    But knowing who and how someone is infected with Covid is practically impossible except in very limited circumstances. You may recall that documented cases of spread on planes have been mentioned on this blog.

    Our culture tends to reject the concept of being our brother’s keeper in favor of an every-man-for-himself attitude. That is a popular view of morality in America. It doesn’t work well in a pandemic with a lethal invisible virus.

  31. “…I did not expect the vaccines we have to be as effective against symptomatic infection as they were in winter/spring 2021.”

    I think you mean “ineffective”. The experimental gene therapies are an abject failure and have arguably killed more people than those terminated by the “virus”.

  32. @1KBrad…Jerry commits the logical fallacy known as Ad Hominem and actually, it’s much worse because it wasn’t The Center for Neurology and Spine that argued masks don’t work, but 150 independent studies. His response is both weak and lazy.

  33. Libs seem to miss the point that they can wear an N95 and protect themselves. You do not need to force mandates on other people.

  34. They’ll just keep extending it, until we revolt; they’re luxuriating in their power. And some of the politicians and bureaucrats realize that they’ll perhaps be required to do some real work once they are no longer writing memos and scheduling meetings to discuss the mask mandate. Wearing masks on airplanes is disgusting.

  35. @John: So you just want everyone to wear a mask forever?

    Perhaps a minor inconvenience to you–not necessarily to others.

    We’ve played your game for two years now. Game is over.

  36. Look, I’m a left wing progressive but I’m over the mask mandates. (Yes; yes I do realize Covid isn’t and never will be over infecting us… but this is the point) I was all for it back with the original strain, when clearly the masks were helping and we didn’t have vaccines to even rely on.

    But the nature of these mandates illustrates how this is just now an entrenched regulation like dumping your water bottle out at TSA that is really doing little to stem the spread. You can fill a restaurant or plane to capacity. You can sit and eat and drink maskless. (seriously who is actually covering their face every single time between bites and sips?) But get up to use the restroom you need a mask. It’s a farce at this point. Cloth masks do not work well, and these regulations are not mandates for N95s to be securely and snugly worn for the entire duration of a flight. Because that is impracticable.

    I have ZERO issue with people wearing masks of their own volition. Even then, it makes me laugh to see them w a legitimate N95 off their face for 25% of the flight as they drink or eat. These variants are so contagious that you’re spreading it within a few seconds. It’s in the air.

    I’m not saying this to whine because oh they’re uncomfortable and I don’t like mask acne and and and… I say this because this is legitimate theater at this point to make everyone just feel safe. And it’s becoming rather dystopian to just blindly follow a rule that isn’t actually efficacious just because someone says so (I know some conservatives will say this has ALWAYS been the case, but I truly do think initially the earlier variants were constrained at a higher rate with mask use, and again, we literally had no other ways of protecting ourselves so the effort had at least the air of valiance)

    The indoor mask mandates are even more ridiculous, because like I say, to have to wear a mask from the door to a restaurant table, but then being allowed to sit maskless for hours spewing Covid into the air… how is this supposed to be taken seriously anymore?

    This is honestly a case of politicians (on the left, because let’s be real the right never put on an illusion of wanting to try at all) being afraid to be seen to be doing nothing. So this is “something.” After 26 months of this virus being confirmed in North America, this is now the best we can do. And no, I’m not willing to keep up a farce just because it makes some people FEEL safe.

    Again, I am NOT saying masks cannot stop the spread of disease. But cloth masks, or even N95s, worn in this haphazard manner aren’t doing a damn thing anymore. I know that some people will be harassed for choosing to wear masks of their own volition when the mandates are lifted, and that disgusts me. People need to evolve beyond the politics now and let this be a matter of personal choice and safety. But these mask mandates are being so openly flouted and half-heartedly adhered to that you can see it’s worn on most people. And that DOES matter, because when people are just done, they’re done. It’s better to face reality and let the masks become a free choice. When you’re dealing with human beings, you don’t always get the ideal behavior you’d want, and policy makers eventually have to come to grips with the reality of human behavior in practice.

    In sum, because I know how emotionally charged the issue has become. I have no problem with anyone who wants to wear a mask. I myself wear one when I don’t feel well to protect others. I will still carry them when traveling if I’m sitting next to a visibly ill person. But on this greater scale it’s just crumbling and is on its last legs. And one might ask “what happens if a more contagious variant explodes” and my answer to that… at this point it isn’t going to make a difference. I actually would wear one, but the ones who are vehemently, totally over this are just done. And it’s gone on so long now that the visible resistance and resentment has become palpable. So stop making FAs and lounge employees and restaurant workers etc have to be mask police and just end the theater already.

  37. @Jill: Why? So that YOU’LL feel safer?

    @Joey: The research indicates masks and lock-downs were NEVER effective.


    That’s the science–not unsupported opinions.

  38. The only reason to wear a N-95 mask and any other protective gear is to protect yourself from the “vaccinated.” The evidence is becoming crystal clear as to the efficacy of the “vaccine.”

  39. @John Holmes:

    While the Covid vaccines do little to ward off infection, particularly as to the Omicron variants, do you contend that the vaccines don’t significantly reduce the mortality or severe symptoms if infected?

Comments are closed.