US extends mask mandate for airline passengers

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It looks like airline passengers in the United States will be required to wear a mask when traveling until at least 2022. 

The requirement for travellers to wear face masks on public transport networks throughout the United States, including in airports, onboard commercial aircraft, buses and trains, was first introduced on February 1, 2021 and has since been extended twice, with the latest expiry on September 13, 2021.  

Reuters reported the requirement will now be extended until January 18, 2022, citing a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration. 

 ”The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” the TSA spokesperson told Reuters. 

The extension will likely not be without some controversy. The United States has seen many cases of crew having to deal with passengers refusing to comply with the mask mandate. The fine for not wearing a mask ranges from $250 for the first offense up to $1,500 for repeat offenders, the TSA says. 

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, said it welcomed the extension to the rules on mask wearing onboard aircraft, saying it would help to keep passengers and aviation staff safe.  

“Masks are the most effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19,” President Sara Nelson, commented.  “While vaccination has been key to the increased air travel demand, the lagging vaccination rates and rise of the Delta variant has caused cases to skyrocket again – threatening lives, continued virus mutation, and recovery from this pandemic.”

Nelson added: “We all look forward to the day masks are no longer required but we’re not there yet. Let’s focus on putting COVID-19 in check together. Get vaxxed, wear a mask, be kind, and come fly with us!”

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