The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed on Friday afternoon that a federal face mask mandate will be extended through September 13. The mandate, which applies to all public transit passengers aged two and over, was originally set to expire on May 11 but the Biden administration was tipped to extend it and an official announcement was widely anticipated on Friday.
TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein confirmed the extension on Twitter saying the agency was “extending the face mask requirement for individuals across all transportation modes throughout the U.S., including at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on public buses and on commuter bus and rail systems.”
The mask mandate applies to all domestic public transport users, as well as international flights flying to and from the United States, including on foreign carriers. There are, however, exemptions for people with a medical reason that prevents them from wearing a face mask.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) celebrated the extension on Friday, arguing that face masks were necessary even for fully vaccinated passengers. The union’s president, Sara Nelson had appealed to a Senate committee last week asking for the mask mandate to be extended through to the end of the summer.
AFA represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants including at United Airlines, Alaska and Southwest Airlines.
Even without a federal mask mandate, all U.S.-based airlines already had strict face mask rules and in some cases, these policies were more stringent than the federal mandate. Airlines including Delta and American had shown no intention of dropping their own face mask rules even if the federal mandate had lapsed.
Represented by trade group Airlines for America, the carriers have argued that continuing to insist on the wearing of face masks should allow the Biden administration to ease other travel restrictions – including the ban on travel from Europe, the UK and Brazil.
On Friday, President Biden extended existing travel bans by signing an executive order banning travel from India starting Tuesday following an explosive rise in COVID-19 case numbers in the country.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.