WASHINGTON — The CEOs of half a dozen major U.S. airlines are urging President Joe Biden to stop requiring masks on planes. Some members of Congress agree, but others say they should leave the decision to the nation’s health experts.
A group of airline CEOs sent this letter asking the Biden Administration to drop the federal transportation mask mandate. Their open letter states that airlines have “supported” the federal government’s measures to “slow the spread” of COVID-19 but they believe current data calls for changes.
The group said in part, “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.”
The travel mask mandate was scheduled to expire March 18, but The Transportation Security Administration extended it to April 18.
“We’re tired of having an adversarial relationship with people we pay money,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “the airlines for a long part of this have hidden behind the federal mandate.”
Paul, who strongly advocates against all mask requirements, recently forced a vote to repeal travel mask mandates. His resolution received bipartisan support and passed 57-40, but its fate in the House is unclear.
“I think people want it to be gone and I don’t think it’s a party line thing anymore,” Paul said.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said that as someone who flies regularly for work, he’d also like to see the mandate lifted at some point, but he doesn’t think Congress is the place to do it.
“I would hate to see that be done in a vote in Congress because then you’ve got emotion basically trumping the really important scientific analysis of what’s going on,” Yarmuth said.
Yarmuth said he’s glad the Biden Administration is taking the time to analyze recent data. The CDC framework shows that 99% of the U.S. population no longer needs to wear a mask indoors.
“We only have a few weeks to go in this extended period and then I think the administration will make a determination that is justified,” Yarmuth said.
In the joint letter, the airline CEOs also asked that the White House life the predeparture testing requirements for International travel.