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Multiple airlines, Amtrak to drop mask requirements

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Multiple airlines along with Amtrak on Monday evening moved to make masks optional on their transit systems following a federal court decision that effectively ended the federal transportation mask mandate.

United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways all announced that masks would be optional for both passengers and employees as well as in airports. Amtrak also announced that it would make masks optional for its guests and train employees.

“Due to a judicial decision in our federal court system, the mask mandate has been overturned, which means our guests and employees have the option to wear a mask while traveling in the U.S. and at work,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement.

“It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change. I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we’re known for,” Max Tidwell, vice president of safety and security for Alaska Airlines, said in a statement.

United Airlines also confirmed in an email to The Hill that “effective immediately, masks are no longer required” on domestic flights and “select international flights” or at U.S. airports.

Delta Air Lines also announced that “effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and on board all aircraft domestically, as well as on most international flights.”

American Airlines said Monday that “face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights.”

JetBlue Airways also announced that masks would now be optional in keeping with the court’s decision.

“While no longer required, customers and crewmembers are welcome to continue wearing masks in our terminals and on board our aircraft,” the airline added in a statement obtained by The Hill.

Southwest Airlines echoed a similar message, saying, “Southwest Employees and Customers will be able to choose whether they would like to wear a mask, and we encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their personal wellbeing.”

Outside of the airline industry, Amtrak, a federally supported rail system, also said that masks would no longer be required, The New York Times reported. 

In a statement to The Hill, a spokesperson for the rail system said that Amtrak would make masks optional for employees and customers on board trains and in stations but added that “masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19.”

The decision came the same day a federal judge in Florida, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mask mandate for travel on planes, trains and buses.

The government had argued for a broader definition of the word “sanitation,” including preventing disease, but Mizelle decided the word was “limited to cleaning measures.”

“Wearing a mask cleans nothing,” the appointee of former President Trump wrote.  

“Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate. Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in a tweet of the decision

Though the mask mandate will no longer be enforced, the CDC still “recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.” 

This story updates an earlier version to include Amtrak and additional airlines.

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