'It makes no sense': Airline executives are asking Biden to end the mask mandate on planes and in airports

'It makes no sense': Airline executives are asking Biden to end the mask mandate on planes and in airports
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  • Airline executives from several passenger and cargo carriers have asked President Joe Biden to drop the mask mandate on planes.
  • They say the policy "makes no sense" because it contradicts requirements in other places, like crowded restaurants.

Airline executives are calling on President Joe Biden to end the mask mandate on planes and in airports, citing contradictions to requirements in other places like restaurants and crowded events.

On March 10, the US Transportation Security Administration announced that the mask requirement on public transportation set to expire on March 18 would be extended another 30 days.

In response, executives from the largest US airlines including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and other cargo and passenger carriers sent a letter to President Biden on Wednesday asking him to let the policy expire come April 18.

The letter also asked the administration to end the policy that requires travelers to present a negative COVID test before entering the US from abroad.

According to the letter, the executives say mask requirements on public transportation contradict policies in other places.


"It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools, and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do," the letter said.

Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, expressed the same thoughts, telling Insider that he was surprised that the mask mandate was extended because the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already dropped the mandate for about 70% of the US population.

"The concern that I have is that it just contributes to this very uneven set of policies that exist," he told Insider. "It makes airlines and airports look like the bad guys when they have to remind passengers that masks are still required."

"It also puts workers in an uncomfortable position because the second you step out of that airport terminal, you are probably going to be in a community where mask-wearing is no longer required," he continued.

The collective movement is the first time the industry has publically rallied against the mask mandate, according to The New York Times. In December, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told Congress at a Senate hearing that masks "don't add much" protection against COVID-19 on an aircraft.


However, a day after the hearing, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian took a different stance on the matter, telling CNBC that "masks are going to be important as a safeguard for a while yet."

Bastian has changed his tune since December, saying in a separate statement that "the federal mask mandate and pre-departure testing no longer fits with the current environment."

The executives are not the only groups asking the Biden Administration to drop the mandate. Southwest's flight attendant union, TWU Local 556, sent a letter earlier in March asking for the policy to expire, saying flight attendant jobs have not "changed so drastically and quickly" since September 11, 2001.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden Administration implemented a federal mask mandate on public transportation in January 2021. The requirement caused a dramatic uptick in unruly passenger reports on aircraft, with over 4,000 reports sent to the Federal Aviation Administration in 2021.