A sudden reversal of sentiment from America’s leading airline companies regarding mask mandates, vaccines, and other pandemic restrictions marks the end of Biden’s private sector support for such measures.
Major airline company executives are urging the Biden administration to do away with predeparture testing requirements and mandatory masking on aircraft.
The CEOs of JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, and others signed on to a letter published by Airlines for America, a lobbying group that represents airlines, arguing for lifting the measures now that the omicron wave has abated.
“Now is the time for the Administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions — including the international predeparture testing requirement and the federal mask mandate — that are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment,” they said.
For more than a month, airlines have been urging the Biden administration to nix the requirement that international arrivals must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test regardless of vaccination status. They argued in February that the predeparture testing rule was holding people back from international travel out of fear of the chance that they will be unable to return to the United States. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and Canada recently lifted their predeparture testing requirements, citing the receding omicron wave.
“The predeparture test requirement, imposed to slow the introduction of variants into the U.S., has outlived its utility and stymies the return of international travel,” the CEOs said in Wednesday’s letter. “Further, many outbound travelers are not willing to risk being stranded overseas.”
The Biden administration recently extended the federal mask mandate through April 18, which applies to all forms of public transit, airplanes, and airports. This comes amid moves by the administration to accept the coronavirus as a facet of normal life, with peaks and valleys to be expected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the majority of grounded people are safe to remove face coverings now that community transmission has plummeted. The airlines said Wednesday that people on aircraft should be given the same option.
“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do,” they said.
It never made sense, it’s just safe to finally admit it now.
Author: Nolan Sheridan