Airlines, transit systems drop mask mandates following court ruling

Federal judge voids US mask mandate on public transportation

A decision by a federal judge in Florida to throw out a national mask mandate for public transportation across the U.S. created a confusing patchwork of rules for passengers as they navigate airports and transit systems.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The White House says it is reviewing the next steps and may still appeal a federal judge’s decision to overturn a national mask mandate on public transportation.

Tuesday was the first full day since people across the country have been allowed to go maskless on airplanes, trains and other transit systems.

Among the services that have dropped the requirement are: Lyft, Uber, Amtrak, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun County Airlines, Allegiant, JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier and Hawaiian Airlines.

Among the companies that have dropped mask mandates are: Lyft, Uber, Amtrak, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun County Airlines, Allegiant, JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier and Hawaiian Airlines. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

For anyone riding the bus locally, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority also says it will no longer be enforcing a mask mandate -- even though when you call JTA’s number, you might get a message saying it’s still enforced. That’s where we understand there’s a lot of confusion for people traveling.

At Jacksonville International Airport, it appeared Tuesday that not everyone was ditching their masks just yet.

“I was, like, ‘What, really?’” traveler Sharon Blow, who was going home to Virginia, said of her reaction to the federal judge’s decision Monday. “I still have it just in case because sometimes people may have a cold or cough.”

Or COVID-19.

Some parents are not happy about the decision.

Dr. Jeremy Faust tweeted:

“Hi @united.

“When I bought my tickets for me, my wife (who is pregnant), and our unvaccinated 4-year-old, I assumed you would continue to have a mask mandate.

“Now you cancel it and we will have to board our return flight under your new no mask required policy?!

“Thanks so much.”

This comes as the American Academy of Pediatrics reports cases among children are up.

Still, Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville’s director of infectious disease and prevention, says that doesn’t necessarily mean families need to cancel their vacations.

“I certainly think there’s a lot of demand for travel right now. I for one would mask my child if they were unvaccinated while traveling on a bus, subway or aircraft just because it’s the safest for them right now,” Neilsen said.

And Neilsen’s biggest piece of advice is something doctors long preached before the pandemic: If you are sick, stay home.

Travelers can still wear a mask if they choose to.

If you bought a flight when the mandate was supposed to be in effect and now you want to cancel, that likely is not going to be possible, however, some travel experts recommend reaching out to your specific airline and explaining to the airline why you’re not comfortable traveling without a mandate and most will let you change the flight for free or give you a credit for later.