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Most major US airlines drop mask mandates after court ruling

Several airlines dropped mask mandates after a court ruling.Bloomberg/file

Most major U.S. airlines are no longer requiring travelers or employees to wear face coverings on domestic and some international flights.

The decisions came hours after a U.S. judge on Monday overturned a federal mandate for passengers to cover their faces. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said after the court ruling that it would stop requiring passengers on planes, trains and other public transportation to wear masks “at this time.”

The five largest U.S. carriers -- American Airlines Group Inc., Alaska Air Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. -- said they were dropping their mandates effective immediately. Use of masks will be optional for both passengers and staff, they said.

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JetBlue Airways Corp. did not reply to a request for comment.

Delta said customer communications and signs in airports will be updated to reflect the change, and cautioned that local mask mandates may remain in effect.

“We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as Covid-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus,” the Atlanta-based carrier said in a statement.

United, which among was the first of the U.S. airlines to drop its mask mandate, told employees they’ll be spared the task of forcing passengers to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“This means that you are no longer required to wear a mask -- and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public,” the Chicago-based carrier said in a memo to staff.

Earlier this month U.S. airlines had asked the Biden administration to end its masking requirement for public transport, but last week the CDC extended the ban until May 3. Mask mandates have led to a marked increase in disruptive passengers and airline employee assaults since being imposed in early 2020.

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Airlines have also pressed for a new “no-fly” list for passengers who assault their workers or fellow air travelers. Alaska said Monday that it would continue to ban some past customers “whose behavior was particularly egregious” even after the era of mandatory mask wearing is over.

The airlines said they also will not require the use of masks at boarding gates or elsewhere in airports.