Plane passengers in the US are reporting that some pilots announced the country’s federal mask mandate had been dropped mid-flight.
Announcements have allegedly taken place on Delta, United and Alaska Airlines services today, after a federal judge in Florida voided the mask mandate.
Some travelers expressed anger that pilots would allow the mask rules to be scrapped while passengers were still airborne, unable to decide whether they were comfortable to go ahead with their flight or not based on the change.
“I am on a plane with my two not-yet-eligible for vax kids and the pilot just announced that the mask mandate has just this minute ended,” tweeted Brooke Tansley, who describes herself as a storyteller-entrepreneur. “Ppl clapped and took off their masks. Here we are having boarded a plane with our kids.”
She added that she was “very upset” that the decision had been made mid-flight, saying: “Here we are, trapped in the sky with our eight-month-old unmasked baby (you can’t actually mask a baby that young ) under the assumption that everyone who can be masked would be masked, and the flight 325 crew has taken our choices away from us. Very very angry about this.”
Social media users offered their sympathy, with some reporting the same issue on other flights.
registered nurse Judy Caughran replied: “Tell me about it. Same thing happened to me with @UnitedAirlines with the flight attendant announcing it just before take off. Not wearing mask with pride and looking very annoyed 1/2 the plane still kept their masks on.
“I’m very uncomfortable with this decision.”
A United Airlines spokesperson said: “Effective immediately, masks are no longer required at United on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s mask requirements) or at US airports.
“While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask – and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public – they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the event of changes.”
Other respondents claimed they had had similar experiences on Alaska Airlines flights, with Carrie Perry tweeting that the carrier “did the same thing to us tonight. I was also traveling with my daughter who’s too young to be vaccinated.”
Another twitter user, Amy, alleged: “The pilot on our @AlaskaAir flight from Hawaii announced this on our flight tonight (before takeoff). Half the plane took masks off, including all the flight attendants.”
The US mask mandate, which required passengers on public transport, on plans and at airports to wear a mask, had been in place since January 2021.
Due to expire on 18 April, it was extended again until 3 May by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to give more time to study the BA.2 omicron coronavirus variant.
But on Monday in Tampa, Florida, US district judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled that the mandate exceeded the CDC’s authority and that it hadn’t justified the order while failing to follow rulemaking procedures.
The Independent has asked Delta and Alaska Airlines for comment.