Business/Economy

Alaska Airlines and others end mask requirement following federal court ruling

Alaska Airlines and most other major carriers said Monday afternoon that face masks will be optional on planes, effective immediately. The decision came just hours after a mandate that required masks on public transit, including airplanes, was voided by a Florida federal judge.

In addition to Alaska, United Airlines, Delta, Southwest and American also announced Monday that masks are optional on domestic flights.

The airlines said the Biden administration had changed its policy so the Transportation Security Administration will halt enforcement of the federal mandate requiring masks in all U.S. airports.

In its statement, Alaska Airlines wrote the policy change applies to passengers and staff.

“Even as more pandemic protocols and policies ease, our team will remain vigilant and prepared for whatever may come next. Safety remains our top priority,” the statement said. “And while we sincerely hope most of these challenges are in our rear-view mirror, we are confident we will be ready to respond if faced with another COVID wave or even a new virus.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented the mandate in early 2021 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Alaska Airlines has required masks on flights since May 2020.

The CDC last week extended the mandate until May to provide more time to study a subvariant of the virus and monitor an uptick in cases. The mandate was challenged by a lawsuit in July and on Monday, a federal judge in Florida voided it. It was not immediately clear if federal officials would appeal the ruling.

Across the country, airlines have banned thousands of often unruly passengers who refused to comply with the mask mandate.

In the statement Monday, Alaska Airlines said “guests whose behavior was particularly egregious” will remain banned even after the policy is changed.

Shannon McCarthy with Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said because the TSA is no longer enforcing the mask mandate, masks are optional now at state-managed airports.

The state agency oversees more than 200 airports across Alaska, including the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Masks are also now optional at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Seattle Times reported.

Daily News reporter Alex DeMarban contributed.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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