Pilots announce end of US mask mandate mid-flight, passengers divided

Midway through a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Monday night, the pilot announced the end of America’s requirement to wear face masks on public transport, including on planes. The sound of cheering resonated through the plane and around one third of passengers instantly took off their masks, according to a witness. However, some passengers were outraged and scolded the airline for putting them at immediate risk with no way out.

On Monday, a Florida federal judge voided the Biden administration’s mandate to wear face masks on planes, trains and buses. When the news hit, some passengers were already midway through the air. Mid-flight announcements took place on Delta, United, Southwest and Alaska Airlines.

One pilot announced…

“Ladies and gentleman, this is your pilot speaking. This is the most important announcement I’ve ever made. The federal mask mandate is over. Take your mask off if you choose.”

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Passengers’ reactions to the mid-flight announcement were mixed…

“Half the plane cheers/high fives. Other half keeps their masks on. A person near me starts crying, clearly worried”, according to passenger Walt Ecton.

A mother aboard the flight to LA with her children was filled with alarm upon hearing the announcement. Both of Brooke Tansley’s children, a 4 year old and an 8 month old baby, are too young to be vaccinated, she said. Her baby is too young to wear a mask. Brooke was on her way to a meeting with a colleague who has a rare autoimmune disease and all her family members completed PCR tests before the flight, not because it was a requirement but because they were worried about potentially infecting him with Covid-19. Brooke voiced her concerns…

“It’s not that the mask mandate has changed that upset me, it’s that we boarded the plane under one set of rules, and made a decision as a family and as a work group. The decision was made for us mid-flight.”

For passengers awaiting a delayed flight from West Palm Beach in Florida to New York, the announcement happened prior to boarding the plane. A lawyer waiting to board said that around 75% of passengers took the flight unmasked…

“For this announcement to happen literally minutes before we got in the plane made me feel very uncomfortable”, he said.

Ben Dietderich, another passenger, described the announcement as a “wonderful moment.”

While passengers are now free to ditch their masks, they are of course welcome to wear a mask if they want to. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing a mask…

“Today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time… CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.”

The wearing of face masks in the US has become highly politicised.


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