Earlier this week, when a judge ruled that the federal mandate requiring passengers to wear masks on airplanes was unlawful, many domestic airlines and airports stopped requiring their customers to wear them.
Nearly all of the major airlines – including American, Delta, United, and Southwest – dropped the requirement, as did some high-profile, high-traffic airports, such as Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, and Newark.
This alone was already going to confuse things, as the ruling was predictably controversial, so much so that some areas and airports have decided to keep mask requirements in place.
For example, those living in the New York City area will see a variety of contrasts: Masks are still required at JFK and LaGuardia airport, but not at Newark. New Jersey Transit has done away with mask mandates, but face coverings are still required aboard the New York City subway.
President Biden’s own message hasn’t been crystal clear, either: He initially said it was up to the individual to decide, but then promised to appeal the decision if the CDC advised him to.
In this sense, we already knew confusion was bound to go down when traveling this spring. But now that the CDC has officially asked the Department of Justice to appeal the ruling, even more back and forth could be on the way.
If a full appeal process does begin, expect political lines to be drawn on the issue, as they have throughout the entire pandemic. Many businesses could show support for the appeal by reinstituting mask policies, while others could dig in and refuse.
The result could be a more extreme version of the “mask confusion” that we are already seeing, with travelers like us caught in the thick of it, so buckle up.
We have already seen increased insanity aboard airlines these past few years when the mask mandate was clear and actively enforced. If we now enter a grey area, where people become emotionally involved one way or the other, passengers and airline staff are bound to get caught in the middle.
Hopefully, some strong messaging will be coming our way soon enough. Before it was overturned, the federal mask mandate was set to expire on May 3rd, 2022.