When a judge struck down the federal mask mandate for public transportation, the ruling changed the face of American travel. Within hours, a cluster of airlines declared they would no longer require the face coverings. Some flight attendants and passengers celebrated in mid-air. Even Disney World made masks optional on its park transportation.
But not every sector of the transportation world is tossing out its mask mandates just yet. Individual airlines and other companies still have the option to enforce their own mandates, even if they’re not backed up by the federal government. Here’s a look at where you do and don’t have to wear a face covering.
Just hours after US Judge Kathryn Mizelle’s ruling was announced, a number of America’s largest airlines dropped their mask requirements. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue all said masks will now be “optional” on their flights.
“In line with Monday’s federal court ruling and the TSA’s guidance, mask wearing will now be optional on JetBlue within the US,” JetBlue announced on Twitter. “While no longer required, customers and crewmembers may continue wearing masks in our terminals and on board our aircraft.”
However, local laws both within the US and in other countries may still require masks, so customers may need to cover their faces at certain airports.
The US isn’t big on train travel, but most of the passenger trains it does have are heading in a mask-free direction. On the same day as Judge Mizelle’s ruling, Amtrak – the country’s main provider of intercity train travel – said face coverings were encouraged but no longer required.
“While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19,” the company said on Monday. “Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.”
When it comes to subway systems, mask policy varies from city to city. New York’s subway system, run by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), is holding firm to its mask mandate, citing a recommendation by the New York State Department of Health. Washington DC’s Metro, on the other hand, dropped its requirement as soon as news of the ruling broke.
“Our mask mandate has been based on federal guidance,” the Metro’s CEO, Paul Wiedefeld, said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds, but masks will be optional on Metro property until further notice.”
Mr Wiedefeld said the same masks-optional policy applies for Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess.
Taxis are a complicated story. When it comes to ride share apps, the two big ones – Uber and Lyft – have said they’re dropping their mask requirements.
“Wearing a mask is now optional for everyone in the car,” Lyft now says on its website. In addition, “riders and drivers are no longer required to keep the front seat empty or the windows open.”
Certain local taxi services, however, are not ready to lose the face coverings just yet. New York City’s famous yellow cabs, for example, are still requiring masks.
“Masks are still required in all taxis and for-hire vehicles,” the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (NYC TLC) tweeted on Tuesday.
America’s buses are also largely leaving their masks in the rearview mirror.
Greyhound, the nation’s largest intercity bus operator, announced that it was making masks optional on Monday.
“Effective immediately (4/19/2022), masks are optional for all employees and customers inside our terminals and onboard our buses,” the company said. “Note that masks will still be required if mandated by local municipalities and as of now when crossing the border into Mexico or Canada.”
The second largest operator, Megabus, made roughly the same announcement. So did Peter Pan and a number of other bus lines.
In a sign of how far-reaching the shakeup has been, even the trains at Disney World have dropped the mask requirement.
“Face coverings are optional for Guests in both outdoor and indoor locations, as well as Disney transportation,” the theme park now says on its website. “It is recommended Guests who are not fully vaccinated continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, including indoor attractions and theaters and on enclosed transportation.”