A US federal judge in Florida has voided the Biden government’s national face mask mandate for public transportation, including all airlines. 

The decision, made on April 18, 2022 by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, said that the CDC had exceeded its legal powers by issuing the mandate in January 2021 to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” the judge said in the 59-page court decision.

On April 13, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the federal mask mandate for passengers traveling on airplanes and public transportation until May 3, 2022.

Following the ruling, a number of US airlines including Delta, United, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines, have said that face masks are now optional on flights

“It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change. I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we’re known for,” Max Tidwell, VP of safety & security at Alaska Airlines said in a statement. 

“We’re also thankful for our guests who remained considerate, patient and stood by us throughout every twist and turn.” 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), also issued a statement immediately after the ruling, saying, “Due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. TSA will also rescind the new Security Directives that were scheduled to take effect tomorrow.” 

The TSA, however, reminded that the CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.

Some members of the public were able to capture jubilant reactions of passengers on a flight when the new ruling was announced:

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The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the federal mask mandate for people traveling on airplanes and public transport.