US airlines have called on the US government to drop its mask mandate for air passengers.

The CEOs of the country’s airlines have also questioned the continued need for pre-departure testing for international travellers.

Despite falling COVID-19 cases across the US and restrictions subsequently being lifted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Transportation Security Administration extended its mask mandate by 30 days earlier this month, requiring airline mask guidelines to remain in place.

Mandate “no longer aligned” with environment

In a letter addressed to US President Joe Biden and cosigned by the CEOs of 10 US-based passenger and cargo airlines, including American Airlines, Delta and United, the coalition stress that whilst they did originally support the mandate, changing circumstances mean they no longer believe it is necessary.

“Now is the time for the administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions, including the international pre-departure testing requirement and the federal mask mandate, that are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment.

The persistent and steady decline of hospitalisation and death rates are the most compelling indicators that our country is well protected against severe disease from COVID-19. Given that we have entered a different phase of dealing with this virus, we strongly support your view that ‘COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.'”

Delta B767. Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz
Delta also released its own statement stressing passengers would not be barred from wearing their own face masks | © Miguel Ángel Sanz

Employees bear the brunt of passenger frustration

Airline employees have beared the brunt of passenger fury over masks for the past two years and despite a decrease in the number of overall passengers, cases of passenger disruption have skyrocketed, leading to thousands of passengers being banned by airlines. The struggle to deal with unruly passengers was specifically mentioned in the letter:

“This is not a function they are trained to perform and subjects them to daily challenges by frustrated customers. This in turn takes a toll on their own well-being.”

The letter goes on to draw attention to the “competitive disadvantage” faced by US airlines as rivals in the UK, EU and Canada no longer are required to enforce mask-wearing on their services.

With a mandate at odds to neighbours and the country’s own health protection agency, whether or not the Biden administration will reconsider the mandate prior to its current expiration date remains anyone’s guess.

Do you think it is time for the US airline mask mandate to end? Let us know in the comments below.

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