Chief executives of several major airlines told President Joe Biden to end COVID-19-related federal transportation restrictions in a Wednesday letter.
Leaders of American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, FedEx Express, UPS Airlines and more said pandemic restrictions, including the federal mask mandate and COVID-19 testing requirements for international flights, no longer made sense in the letter shared by The Washington Post.
“Given that we have entered a different phase of dealing with this virus, we strongly support your view that ‘COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.’” the letter read. “Now is the time for the Administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions … that are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment.”
The executives said testing requirements drove up consumer costs and discouraged Americans from traveling abroad, citing a Jan. 19 statement from the World Health Organization that “the failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of Omicron variant to limit international spread of Omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time.”
Mask mandate enforcement creates a burden for airline employees through daily challenges from customers, according to the executives.
The letter cited a new CDC framework which found that 99% of people do not need to wear masks indoors as well as studies finding that airplane cabins are among the safest of indoor environments with regard to COVID-19 because of air filtration systems. The letter also noted that high quality masks exist for those who wish to wear them.
“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do,” the letter read.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended its mask mandate for an additional month beyond the March 18 deadline, and Biden reportedly threatened to veto a congressional effort to end the mandate.
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