Major U.S. airlines and many of the country's busiest airports rushed to drop their requirements on Monday after the Transportation Security Administration announced it wouldn’t enforce a January 2021 security directive that applied to airplanes, airports, taxis, and other mass transit.
But the ruling still gave those entities the option to keep their mask rules in place, resulting in directives that could vary from city to city.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and Fort Worth-based American Airlines dropped face mask mandates Monday just hours after the ruling.
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Major airports dropped their requirements but sided with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in recommending that people be voluntarily masked.
DALLAS-FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
In a statement Tuesday morning, a spokesman for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport confirmed face masks will no longer be required by airport visitors or employees.
Travelers are being encouraged to check with their airlines and their destinations for any rules regarding face masks, the statement added.
DALLAS LOVE FIELD AIRPORT
DFW Airport's confirmation followed Dallas Love Field's announcement Monday evening that masks would be optional for employees, passengers, and guests.
The airport offers free masks, while supplies last, at the airport's information booth prior to the TSA checkpoint. They are also available for purchase at the vending machine across from the TSA checkpoint and in various shops in the concourse.
You can read more about the airport's health policies and procedures on its website.
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WHAT CAUSED THE CHANGE?
In a 59-page lawsuit ruling, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa said the CDC overstepped its authority in issuing the original health order on which the TSA directive was based. She also said the order was fatally flawed because the CDC didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures.
Mizelle, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said the only remedy was to throw out the mandate for the entire country because it would be impossible to end it only for the people who objected in the lawsuit.
The White House said the mask order “is not in effect at this time” and called the court decision disappointing.
The Justice Department declined to comment on whether it would seek an emergency stay to block the judge’s order. The CDC also declined to comment.
TURNING POINT IN THE PANDEMIC?
The CDC had recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire Monday, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S. But the court ruling puts that decision on hold.
Since the pandemic began two years ago, many state or local governments had issued various orders requiring masks to be worn inside schools, restaurants, stores, or elsewhere. The rules were largely rolled back as the deadliest, most infectious months of the pandemic eased.
But the national rule for travelers remained and was arguably the most widespread, visible, and irksome measure of its kind.
The wearing of masks aboard airplanes sparked online flame throwing between those who felt they were crucial to protecting people and those who saw it as an unnecessary inconvenience or even government overkill.
Some flight attendants found themselves cursed and even attacked by passengers who refused to comply.
The lawsuit was filed in July 2021 by two plaintiffs and the Health Freedom Defense Fund, described in the judge’s order as a nonprofit group that “opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures, and devices against their will.”
Republicans in Congress waged a running battle to kill the mandate.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was not directly involved in the case but has battled against many government coronavirus requirements, praised the ruling.
“Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end,” DeSantis tweeted.