Four largest airlines drop COVID mask requirement hours after judge strikes down CDC mandate

A federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden admin's ongoing traveler mask mandate

Updated: April 18, 2022 - 9:08pm

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Four major U.S. airlines are ditching COVID-19 mask requirements after a federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the Biden administration's mask mandate for air passengers and others mass travelers. 

Several airlines, including United Airlines, Delta, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines announced that they were dropping the mask requirements for passengers and employees.

Delta noted that "mask mandates in other countries may still be in effect," despite the airline's announcement.

"You may experience inconsistent enforcement during the next 24 hours as this news is more broadly communicated," the company added.

The judge, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, said the mandate was unlawful because it exceeded the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention DC and that its implementation violates administrative law insofar as the agency did not provide a sufficient justification for its mandate.

The administration recently extended to May 3 the mandate for plane, rail, bus and other similar travel, while most other pandemic-related mandates have been lifted. The agency decided more time was warranted due to a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases attributed to the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron. The travel mandate has been in place since the earliest stages of the pandemic in 2020.

It's unclear exactly how the ruling will immediately impact travelers, or if the Biden Justice Department will attempt to block the ruling and file an appeal.

Mizelle's ruling adds to the legal woes of the Biden administration in implementing its COVID policies, including its previous large employer vaccine-or-test mandate, which was struck down by the courts.