Yesterday, April 18, 2022, was one of those rare days where there’s so much news, it’s difficult to keep up. It reminded me of March 11, 2020 when the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic: stocks plunged, the NBA halted its season, President Trump banned travel from Europe and so much more.

Once the news that a Florida federal judge had ruled that the CDC mask mandate was unconstitutional, the White House said they weren’t going to appeal and the TSA wasn’t going to enforce it, rules changed quickly and dramatically. This made it obvious that the Biden administration wasn’t planning on extending the May 3rd mask mandate deadline. But I know the news caught everyone, including the airlines, off guard. But it was welcome news to many.

Alaska Airlines was the first to release a statement that masks were optional, followed by United. Within four hours, all the major U.S. airlines announced masks were optional mostly via Twitter; I’ve embedded their tweets towards the bottom of this article.

My sister Carol just happened to be flying Delta Air Lines last night from New York’s La Guardia to West Palm Beach at 8pm. When she was boarding the plane, I told her that Delta had just announced that masks are now optional and asked her to get me some photos in-flight. She did even better as she recorded what I believe is the first Delta flight attendant to make the announcements that masks are now optional, since it happened within two minutes of the company’s announcement.

As you can see, most passengers were still wearing their masks and I think that will be the case for the next couple of months, and even years, during flu season. It will most likely depend on the region, route, and caseloads. But I hope one thing that this pandemic did was make masks more common for people to wear when they’re sick or even better, encourage them to stay home.One of the great things that came out of the pandemic where the airlines are concerned, was forcing them to drop change fees. So now, if you’re sick, you can reschedule your flight without having to pay a penalty. There’s no reason to fly sick.

One of my biggest pet peeves when I travel is being around passengers who fly sick and even worse, don’t  cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. That’s why I’ve been a big fan of wearing masks on planes well before the pandemic. I always carried masks in my carry-on bag, just in case someone near me was sick or if I started to feel under the weather.

There’s still some confusion because it doesn’t matter that the TSA says they won’t enforce masks. They never did to begin with. It’s the airport authority so we might find some airports still requiring mask-wearing. I know some state transportation lines are going to still require masking, which is definitely going to be a problem but I think it’s a good thing since they don’t have the type of air flow or HEPA filters planes do. (I’ll embed some of those major airport announcements below as well.)

Amtrak stated masks will now be optional as well as Uber and Lyft.

I do think planes are safe as long as the people near you aren’t sick, which is a big ‘If’. The best way to protect yourself, according to the doctors, is to get vaccinated, boosted, wear a solid mask (N95 or KN95/94), wash your hands and wipe down high-touch areas. I would also recommend booking a first class ticket so you have fewer people around you. And thanks to not a lot of business travelers flying these days, sometimes those seats can be found for cheap. Always check the price of a first class ticket, the cost of an upgrade or use your miles and points.

I also started flying with a portable HEPA filter and on my last trip, I put it on my two-year old’s seat since she’s unvaccinated. Here’s more on the air filter I travel with.

I will continue to wear my mask when traveling and especially on crowded public transportation or in a store where others are wearing one. I’m a team player so if someone is immunocompromised, I don’t want to risk giving them anything.

But let’s hope this National Unmasking Day puts an end to all the unruly passengers and we can come together. I know it’s a long shot but here’s hoping.

Here are the airline, airport, train, ride share announcements.

 

Airlines

Airports

Ride Share

Train

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2 Comments On "National Unmasking Day: Masks Are Now Optional When Traveling – Here’s What You Need to Know and How to Protect Yourself When Flying"
  1. JohnC|

    I wish I had mask a few years ago in Rome when the tour guide who was sick and coughing a lot. Sure enough, everyone in our party got sick. If we only were carrying masks at the time. I flew back from Dubai yesterday and took the Flyaway bus to Union Station. It was about an hour after the judge made their ruling. There was a Uber passenger in the backseat arguing and talking with Uber about not wearing a mask. That was before Uber changed their policy. Needless to say, security was called and the guy was on the curb with his 5 pieces of luggage looking like crap, I should not have pushed it so far.

  2. Brett Alan|

    Whatever you think of the judge’s ruling, it was outrageous that pilots declared masks to be optional in the middle of flights. People boarded the plane believing that masks were required, some of them with children too small to be vaccinated. Suddenly changing the rules in the middle of a flight when people have no way to leave is a vicious assault. The pilots who did that should be banned from flying and the airlines should refund those flights and pay any medical expenses if anyone was infected on one.

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