In February, not long after the Omicron wave ebbed throughout Europe, the UK Government terminated their requirement for airline passengers to wear face masks as a protective measure against contracting COVID-19. In the past week several major international airlines have announced that they are dropping their requirement for passengers to wear masks as a protection against COVID-19. The airlines include Dutch KLM, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Other airlines across Europe are expected to follow suit, but if you have plans to fly on one of those carriers to or from the U.S. don’t toss your facemask just yet. Until the CDC eliminates the U.S. requirement for masking on commercial modes of transportation, which includes planes, you’ll still have to mask up.
The CDC extended the current requirement for masking on planes last week, pushing the expiration of the rule forward to April 18th. Earlier this week executives from most of the major commercial airlines in this country sent a letter urging the administration to eliminate the mask mandate for planes. Travel advocacy groups have been lobbying for elimination of the mask requirement since the Omicron wave ebbed, and it appears the move may be gaining traction. With European nations and airlines doing away with their version of airplane mask rules, it seems likely the CDC will follow suit. The recent mini-surge in COVID cases in Europe as a result of the newest Omicron variant may give the CDC pause, but even that won’t likely make a difference. I suspect that by this time next month, masks on airplanes will be a thing of the past.
Whether you support mandatory mask mandates on commercial transportation or not, the end of masking on planes and in airports is coming, and it’s coming soon. If you fly and find yourself worried by that, get vaccinated and boosted, and invest in a high-quality mask like an N95 or better…higher rated masks are readily available if you must fly and are immune-compromised or otherwise at high risk from COVID. Removal of the mask mandate in commercial transportation is yet another step toward accepting COVID as an endemic virus, for better or worse, and it is coming.