MIAMI – The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants to prolong the requirement for travelers to wear masks on flights, trains, and buses, as well as at airports and railway stations, until January 18, 2022. The current TSA transportation mask order is in effect until September 13 of the current year.

On a call with the TSA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday, major US airlines were notified of the planned prolongation, according to three persons briefed on the subject.

A separate meeting with aircraft unions is scheduled for Wednesday, the same sources informed Reuters. The news has also been confirmed by CNN, CNBC and TPG.

Photo: Delta Air Lines

CDC Maskwearing Rule

Face masks are required on practically all types of public transit, according to the current CDC rule, which has been in effect since shortly after Biden took office in January.

All passengers on aircraft, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares must wear face masks, as well as in transportation hubs such as airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, and seaports.

The rules have caused some consternation, particularly on US-based aircraft, where some passengers have refused to wear masks. According to Reuters, since January 1, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received information from airlines of 2,867 passengers refusing to wear a mask.

The correct masks? A Delta Air Lines FA hands sanitizer while boarding in 2020. Photo: Delta Air Lines.

Face Masks that Actually Protect

As for the type of face masks and mouth coverings travelers must wear, US Airlines have barred the use of masks with a vent/valve, citing the newest CDC recommendations.

The CDC recently stated that vented masks do not help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, prompting airlines to prohibit the use of this sort of facial covering. Following Alaska Airlines (AS), Delta Air Lines (DL), Frontier Airlines (F9), JetBlue B6), Southwest Airlines (WN), Spirit (NK), and United Airlines (UA), American Airlines (AA) is the latest carrier to prohibit the usage of such masks.

The following masks are not recommended by the CDC in the US:

  • Masks that don’t fit properly, either because they’re too loose or too tight, or because they have large gaps.
  • Masks are made of materials that make it difficult to breathe, such as plastic or leather.
  • Wearing a ski mask or a scarf.
  • Exhalation valves or vents are included in some masks. Exhalation valves or vents are not recommended by the CDC because the opening in the material may allow respiratory droplets to escape and reach others.
  • Fabric that is loosely woven or knitted used to make masks.
  • Masks made up of only one layer.
Photo: London city Airport

Maskwearing around the World

Several European countries prohibited cloth face masks, homemade or not, in January of this year in an effort to stop the spread of more transmissible coronavirus strains.

In all public locations, including stores and of course commercial aircraft, citizens and tourists were required to wear single-use surgical-grade FFP1 masks or the more protective FFP2 filtering facepiece respirators or fabric masks that met the same specifications, blocking at least 90% of particles.

South American LATAM Airlines Group has prohibited a specific type of non-surgical mask, as well as several apparel items, from all domestic and international flights in order to enforce stricter onboard restrictions.

The aviation sector has been a strong advocate for travel safety, and airlines have claimed that the risk of infection on board their aircraft is low. Still, as the saying goes, “Better safe than sorry.”

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Featured image: United Airlines