The face mask requirement for airports has been extended through May 3, 2022 © ferrantraite via Getty Images
The face mask requirement for airports has been extended through May 3, 2022 © ferrantraite via Getty Images

Passengers in the US now required to wear masks at airports

TripFalcon April 18, 2022

Last Update: 2022-04-18 00:06:29

The requirement to wear a face mask in airports as well as on planes, buses and trains in the United States has once again been extended.

Just days ahead of the latest mandate being set to expire, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the requirement would stay active for another 15 days. The new order extends it through May 3, 2022.

Issued by President Joe Biden as he took office, the order originally took effect in February 2021 to help curb the spread of COVID-19. It has since been extended several times with the most recent extension set to expire on April 18, 2022.

In a statement on the TSA's website, the agency said the continuation of the mandate came at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to the "spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, especially the BA.2 subvariant that now makes up more than 85% of U.S. cases."

"During the 15-day extension period, CDC will assess the potential impact the recent rise of COVID-19 cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations, deaths, and healthcare system capacity. TSA will continue to coordinate closely with CDC and communicate any changes to this requirement with the public," the agency stated. 

The extension will apply to all travelers over the age of two, although there are exemptions for those with certain disabilities.

Where do I need to wear a mask?

The order requires that all passengers on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares wear face masks. They're also required in transport hubs such as airports, train and subway stations, bus and ferry terminals, and seaports.

Why has the mask mandate been extended?

"The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation," a TSA spokesperson previously told Lonely Planet. The extension of the order is also in line with public transport guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The US Travel Association has pushed for the mask mandate to sunset. Some European countries have retired their own masking policies leading to airlines, like British Airways, to remove the requirement to wear a mask to those destinations where it is clear masking is not required. 

But the CDC recommended the mask mandate stay in place until May 3. TSA has stated in the past it was working with the CDC to form a revised policy framework for masks on public transport.

TSA stated in its April 18 extension the "revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change."

Until the measures expire, travelers should be aware that there are financial penalties in place for those who violate the face mask requirement.

Source: lonelyplanet