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Could Masks No Longer Be Required for Flying in the US? We Find Out Soon!

Written by Charlie

Could we see the end of the mask mandate for flying in the US? We will find out soon! Here, we look at what we know now and what could happen.

The mask mandate for flying in the US (and to the US) has been in place for a long time. It started with airlines requiring their passengers to wear them and the TSA soon followed with a mandate for all federally covered forms of transportation. The current mask mandate is in effect until March 18 – will be extended yet again?

Could Masks on Airplanes Soon Be No Longer Required?

Confusion About Masks on Airplanes Abounds

There is no doubt that masks on airplanes has certainly been a polarizing issue. While part of that is politics, part of it is also the inability to clearly articulate things from early on. For example, it was airlines that started issuing requirements for masks onboard to be followed by a federal mandate for federal transportation and airports, train stations, etc.

But, when it came to what kind of masks were required, that also went through several evolutions to the point that some airlines (not American ones) would even require things like double masks or a mask and a face shield. Germany instituted a policy that required KN95/N95 masks on all their flights and any flights to Germany. Again, this caused confusion with many wondering why those masks were required for Germany due to Covid but not in the US and other places, if they were that much more effective.

Another thing that has caused confusion is the age the US chose to enforce the mask wearing at. For most of the world, it is 6 years and older. For the US (and all flights going to the US), it is 2 years and older. As a father of a two year old, I can tell you that international travel with a mask was not that easy and certainly it prompts questions from many about the purpose of it when other countries (which use more protective masks) do not require that young of an age.

Then we have the actual data that 99.7% of airborne particles are filtered out by airline filtration systems. Other studies showed that the airplanes were very safe zones with the United CEO claiming that these tests showed that “an aircraft is just a remarkably safe environment.” The claim is even made that airplanes are more safe against covid than an operating room.

These things have created a lot of confusion and only fueled the mask debate for air travel – if airplanes are so safe, why wear masks? And if the masks are required to keep you healthy, why doesn’t the TSA require the KN95/N95 masks?

Will the Mask Mandate Be Extended?

The last extension of the mask mandate for federal transportation methods and depots was made on January 18 and is set to expire on March 18. The US last made that extension towards the end of December, 2021. That means the extension was ordered almost one month before it was set to expire.

The TSA Will Decide Soon…

Here we are with just over a week until the current one expires and all we have heard so far is that the TSA will make a decision soon. This sounds like they will not simply let it expire but will lay out some kind of guidance if they choose to not renew it in its current form. For example, they may say that it is up to airlines or that each person can decide if they want to or not – in other words, it would be voluntary.

Updated CDC Guidance

Recently, the federal government also amended their mask mandate for federal buildings (along with the CDC guidance), making it voluntary for areas with low transmission and some places being able to drop it altogether. In addition, most states have now dropped all mask mandates so it would shortly seem that the only place that a person would be required to wear a mask in the US would be a federal transportation depot like an airport/train station and on the transportation.

Some Foreign Carriers Dropping Mandate

Some airlines have already dropped the mask requirement (international carriers). More will likely do this as well as many of the restrictions that had been put in place in the beginning of the Covid-19 spread are being rolled back – entirely in some countries. Airlines do present a tricky area for this, however, since the country they are flying to can require mask use so an airline cannot exactly say no masks required – period – as long as they fly to a country that requires it.

Lawsuit Against the Mask Mandate

Yet another issue at play is a lawsuit filed by Texas against the Biden administration over the mask mandate for flying. For sure, there will be other lawsuits filed as well if the mask mandate is extended and if any of those lawsuits are successful, it would be a blow for the Biden administration rather than if they were the ones to not extend the mandate – thereby taking it out of the judges’ hands.

My opinion is that we will not see the US government extend the mask mandate for air travel. Instead, it will either be a voluntary thing or will be kicked to the airlines again for their decision on the matter (flight attendants say they want it extended but this was a couple of weeks ago). There are medical professionals that believe it will not be extended as well, though still saying that certain persons should continue to wear the masks onboard airplanes.

We will know soon! My guess is that something will come this weekend to give a little bit of notice one way or another.

What About Testing to Arrive in the US?

person in airport using mobile app in phone to show covid-19 test results for travel

Last year, the US made it required for all travelers to the US – citizens or not, vaccinated or not – to have to have a covid test before flying to the US. While many countries have now removed that requirement, at least for vaccinated travelers, the US has continued to maintain that requirement.

I think the US could make a decision on that soon, especially as we gear up for the busier travel season. This seems to be the impetus for some countries in their decision-making. Having a testing requirement is not just keeping some people away from the US, it is also making many Americans nervous about traveling outside the US in case they test positive before their return. With the omicron variant having been so much more contagious, this is a rational fear about testing positive and being stuck for another 5 days out of the country at your own expense.

We recently had this the other way in returning to Europe. We had two people in our family test positive just hours before departure and it kicked our trip out two weeks (it was one person before the first attempt and the second person before the second attempt the next week). It definitely can be a headache!

Given what we know about covid-19 now and the fact that all of these measures still have not stopped the spread (as well as the fact that it has been shown again and again that people that tested negative before travel sometimes test positive after arrival), I do believe the US will be pulling the testing requirement soon as well, at least for vaccinated travelers or for Americans.

Bottom Line

March 18 is the date that the current mask mandate for federal transportation means is to expire. This is the closest to an expiration date that we have ever gotten without an extension and many are wondering what the US will do. For sure, whatever the US decides will have some impact on other countries as well since their airlines have to enforce mask use on flights to the US right now.

Will we see the mask mandate end? I think yes – but who am I? 🙂

What do you think? Will the mask mandate be allowed to expire? If it is, will you continue to wear a mask or no?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Last trip outside the US was Summer 2019.

    I was looking forward to resuming international travel this summer, but would much prefer if they could keep this mandatory. Guess I’ll have to investigate travel insurance options so I can cancel if there is another surge of something really nasty.

  • my wife and I bought a condo in Aruba last summer, and we have traveled there 4 times in the last year. we have spent over $500 testing for this foolish requirement that absolutely has NO effect on covid rates in the US. The knife in our back is that we we complied to our leaders wishes by getting triple faxed yet thousands of illegals cross our border every day, welcomed in by Biden and company with no requirements of passports ,vaccination, or covid testing. Disgraceful.

  • Mask mandates are useless and ineffective and unless you require everyone to properly wear a fitted N95 mask. Anything else is just a charade. After 911 a bunch of fake security measures were created to make people feel safe. Wearing a cloth mask is fake health security to make you feel safe. For the record, feeling safe is not the same as being safe.

  • The nonsense will be over soon. How will the progressive snowflakes possibly survive without those silly chin diapers?

  • It’s funny how badly the vaccine failed. And everyone is quietly walking back everything.

    – Vaccines don’t stop spread.
    – Vaccines don’t stop people from dying (look at UK numbers this week! 90% of deaths are vaxxed)
    – Vaccines fade quickly from any short term effect
    – Vaccines reduce people’s ability to deal with new variants.

    – Lockdowns had a net negative impact onthe world, costing more lives than they saved.

    Masks do nothing, that’s been proven.
    And, covid was always highly age stratified.

    Our public health response, was almost exactly the opposite of what it should have been.
    Now the world economy is a mess, and everyone is backpeddaling on all these rules – that didn’t do a thing.

  • It’s gonna be hard for the COVID cult to let go of their useless virtue signaling moniker. Many never will. They’re too good to do otherwise.

    As for our federal overlords. Remember they can giveth and they can taketh away at will. NOTHING has changed. To quote the Emergency Broadcast System “this was just a test”.

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