A decision by a federal judge in Florida to throw out a national mask mandate for public transportation across the US created a confusing patchwork of rules for passengers as they navigate airports and transit systems, the AP reports. The ruling gives airports, mass transit systems, airlines, and ride-hailing services the option to keep mask rules or ditch them entirely, resulting in rules that vary by city and mode of transportation. Passengers on an United Airlines flight from Houston to Kennedy Airport, for instance, could ditch their masks at their departing airport and on the plane, but have to put them back on once they land in New York or take a subway.
Many airlines and airports swiftly began repealing their requirements that passengers wear face coverings, the AP reports. Sleepy passengers on a Delta flight between Atlanta and Barcelona, Spain, cheered when a flight attendant announced the news mid-flight. “No one’s any happier than we are,” the attendant says in a video posted by Dillon Thomas, a CBS Denver reporter, who was on the flight. The attendant said people who wanted to keep on their masks were encouraged to do so. “But we’re ready to give ém up,” she added. “So thank you and happy unmasking day!” The White House said the mask order “is not in effect at this time” and called the court decision disappointing. The Justice Department declined to comment on whether it would try to block the judge's order.
Here's a look at how US transportation centers and providers are responding:
- Airlines: United, Southwest, American, Alaska, Delta and JetBlue announced that, effective immediately, masks would no longer be required on domestic flights.
- Airports: Airports weren't as fast as airlines to do away with masks, with several expressing uncertainty about the ruling and taking a wait-and-see approach. Phoenix Sky Harbor also eliminated its mask requirement, while San Francisco International Airport said it was waiting for further guidance from TSA and the New York City airports appeared to keep the mandate intact.
- Trains and buses: The rules vary by city and transit agency. In New York, Metropolitan Transportation Authority communications director Tim Minton said the system was keeping the mask mandate, meaning face coverings are still required on the subway, buses and commuter rail lines, as they have since early in the pandemic. But the regional train system serving the Washington, DC, area said Monday that masks will be now optional for its customers and employees going forward. Amtrak also said it was making masks optional.
- Ride sharing: The websites of ride sharing companies Lyft and Uber as of Monday evening still said masks were required.
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