Dated March 23, the letter was addressed to U.S. President Joe Biden and was signed by 10 CEOs representing some of America’s most prominent airlines.
According to the CEOs, since “99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors” per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “[t]he science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate.”
The executives of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, and UPS Airlines signed onto the letter.
“The persistent and steady decline of hospitalization and death rates are the most compelling indicators that our country is well protected against severe disease from COVID-19,” the letter read. “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.’”
Airlines to Biden: Drop the Mask Mandate.
10 CEOs of US passenger and Cargo airlines send letter to President Biden calling for an end to the onboard mask mandate and predepature testing rules pic.twitter.com/Xcl1kWJ3pf
— Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) March 23, 2022
The airline CEOs referred to updated guidance from the CDC, which last week stripped back its mask recommendations for over 99% of indoor venues, arguing that “[i]t 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.”
According to the CEOs, the federal reversal of the mask mandate for public transportation, including airplanes and airports, would not only benefit “the traveling public,” but “the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to COVID-19.”
“It is critical to recognize that the burden of enforcing both the mask and predeparture testing requirements has fallen on our employees for two years now,” the letter noted. “This is not a function they are trained to perform and subjects them to daily challenges by frustrated customers. This in turn takes a toll on their own well-being.”
The letter directed to President Biden comes after the CEOs of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines testified in a December Senate committee hearing that masks did little if anything to stop the spread of COVID-19 on planes.
In a bipartisan rebuke last week, the U.S. Senate voted 57-40 against the ongoing federal mask mandate for public transportation after Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced a resolution calling for an immediate end to the requirement.
The federal mask mandate for air travel and other public transportation was set to expire March 19, but on March 10 the Biden administration extended the rule for another month.