Yesterday, the Biden administration gave US airlines and airports the green light to drop mask requirements after a federal judge vacated the CDC mandate. The administration says they may appeal that decision, should the CDC determine that the mask mandate is still necessary. Given that the CDC just extended the mandate last week after asking for a month to deliberate on when to end the mandate, one would assume that ipso facto the CDC believes it to still be necessary to have a mask mandate, but assumptions are never a good idea when it comes to COVID policies.
US airlines weren’t required to, but all of them decided to immeditately drop their mask requirements.
While most US airlines have said that they will require masks to destinations that still require them, reports from passengers on US airlines’ international flights have been unanimous that masks are no longer required on any flights. That includes reports from American, Delta, and United flights between the US and Israel yesterday and today, despite Israel still having a mask requirement for flights to and from Israel.
On flights from foreign airports with a mask requirement, reports have been that passengers have been told they can remove their masks after boarding doors have been closed.
That’s not surprising given that airlines are allowing passengers who were banned from flying due to mask compliance to fly once again. With no way to enforce mask requirements, flight attendants have no intention of policing it and the vast majority of the flight crew and passengers have ditched their masks on US airlines’ domestic and international flights. A reader reports that a maskless flight attendant on a United flight from Newark to Tel Aviv tonight gave a resounding “NO” when asked if masks were required on the flight.
However, multiple readers have reported that El Al has strictly enforced mask policies on flights yesterday and today.
Among other foreign carriers, BA, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic are not enforcing mask requirements on most flights, while Air France, ITA, and Lufthansa are.
In addition to airline confusion, there’s airport confusion. NY controlled JFK and LaGuardia still require masks in the terminal, though NJ controlled Newark Liberty does not. Uber and Lyft in most of the country no longer have a mask requirement, but Uber, Lyft, taxis, and other public transportation in NY still have a mask requirement. But what’s the rule if you take an Uber from NYC to Newark or vice versa? Does it go by point of origin, destination, or after crossing state lines?
I asked El Al about their mask enforcement and they responded with this comment,
“EL AL flights to and from the US are governed by rules and regulations of the FAA and the Israeli government. At this time, the Israel Ministry of Health requires all passengers 6 years old and above to be masked during flight. When these regulations are updated EL AL will adjust to meet those current requirements.”
El Al previously required children 2 and above to mask on US flights, so this is a change from before. But for now, the airline is regulated by the Israeli Ministry of Health and are obliged to follow their guidance.
The airline says that they are lobbying for changes to be made, but for now, they will indeed be strictly enforcing mask requirements and abiding by Israeli law.
- For those keeping score at home, that means:
- You’ll need a mask at the airport when flying AA or Delta from JFK to Tel Aviv, but can remove the mask onboard.
- If you’re flying United from Newark to Tel Aviv you won’t need a mask at the airport or on the flight.
- If you’re flying El Al from JFK to Tel Aviv you’ll need a mask the whole time, but if you’re flying El Al from Newark to Tel Aviv you won’t need a mask at the airport but you will onboard.
- All bets are off once you get into that Uber.
Of course in this wild west state of mask confusion, all of this is subject to change at any time, or even in middle of a flight.
May the odds be ever in your favor! Safe travels, good night, and good luck. And be sure to let us know what happens on your flight.
Will you change your travel plans based on airports or airlines enforcing or not enforcing mask requirements?