U.S. airlines ask Biden officials to drop mask mandate

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The companies say the pandemic is slowing down enough to warrant the decision

U.S. airline officials are asking the White House to lift the federal mask mandate on airplanes, as well as the pre-departure testing requirement for international travelers flying back into the U.S.

In their collective opinion, chief executives and officials representing Delta, United, American, Airlines for America, and seven other U.S. airlines say discontinuing the mandate is warranted due to the falloff in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. They also say these actions are already happening in other consumer categories across the country. 

This is the second such effort to roll back the federal mask mandate in the last couple of weeks. Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to end the mandate for travel after President Biden, the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the mask mandate until mid-April.

Mandate doesn't fit the COVID-19 situation

The main ax the airlines have to grind with the White House is that the mandate is “no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment.”

"During the global health crisis, U.S. airlines have supported and cooperated with the federal government's measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are encouraged by the current data and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions from coast to coast, which indicate it is past time to eliminate COVID-era transportation policies," the group wrote in a letter to President Biden. 

The U.S. Travel Association also called on the Biden administration to drop the current protocol mandates, saying in a statement that the "public health benefits of these policies have now greatly diminished" and that the "economic consequences continue to grow."

The plea to end the federal mask mandate comes as Canada, the Netherlands, Thailand, and other countries have dropped pre-arrival testing. Aruba, Ireland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom have also removed pandemic-era travel restrictions completely.

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