Authorities in the US have extended the mandate requiring travellers to wear masks on aircraft until mid-April.
The Transportation Security Administration confirmed earlier this week it was extending its directive until Monday 18th April. The current guidance was set to expire next week.
The TSA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s health protection agency, announced they would collaborate “to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor”.
The mandate could be dropped sooner
They advised the mandate is under constant revision based on COVID-19 variants and case numbers. The door was also left open regarding scrapping the mandate sooner should evidence support the move.
Exemptions remain for travellers under the age of two and those with qualifying disabilities.
The mandate remains controversial in the US, with the Federal Aviation Administration recording increasing instances of unruly passenger behaviour relating to mask-wearing. Almost three-quarters of all cases handled last year related to disputes over masks.
Industry groups unhappy
Airlines and other industry groups have also pushed the White House to change the guidance. The US Travel Association said a return to normal travel conditions was needed, calling on US President Joe Biden to repeal “both the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated international inbound air travellers and the federal mask mandate.”
They point to similar moves made by UK carriers in recent weeks. Low-cost airline Jet2 was the first major carrier to drop its mask guidance, followed quickly by TUI. Ryanair has since announced it hopes to change its guidance in the coming months too.
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