Travelers visiting the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will no longer be required to mask up, though airlines may still require them on planes.
Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are among the airlines that dropped their mask requirements Monday after a federal judge in Florida ruled a federal mask mandate invalid.
Effective immediately, passengers and employees at those and several other major carriers are no longer required to wear face masks. The precaution was put in place two years ago in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Transportation Security Administration will no longer be enforcing the rule, said airport spokesperson Perry Cooper. Airport officials encourage travelers to check with their airlines and destination for more information while making plans.
“It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change. I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we’re known for,” Max Tidwell, vice president of safety and security at Alaska Airlines, said in a statement Monday. “We’re also thankful for our guests who remained considerate, patient and stood by us throughout every twist and turn.”
Some Alaska passengers who were banned by the airline for violating the mask policy will remain banned while others may receive a reprieve, the airline said Monday.
“Throughout the last two years, we have relied on reporting from agents and flight attendants to ban noncompliant guests from traveling while the federal mask policy remained in effect,” Alaska said in a statement. “Based on our reports, we will have some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious who will remain banned, even after the mask policy is rescinded.”
The policy changes came hours after a federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate covering airlines and other public transportation. The Biden administration said the rule would not be enforced while federal agencies decide how to respond to the order.
The White House said the court ruling means the mask order “is not in effect at this time.”
The ruling appeared to free operators to make their own decisions about mask requirements, with several airlines announcing they would drop mandates but the New York City subway planning to keep one in place.
Delta, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s second-largest carrier after Alaska, also announced Monday that it was dropping mask requirements for employees and customers, as did United, Sea-Tac’s third-busiest carrier.
“While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask — and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public — they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit,” United said in a statement.
In a message to employees, Delta described the lifting of the mandate as an indication that “COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus.” Airline leaders noted that the unexpected end of the requirement will likely confuse some passengers.
“You may experience inconsistent enforcement during the next 24 hours as this news is more broadly communicated — remember to show understanding and patience with others who may not be aware enforcement is no longer required,” the airline said in the statement.
The Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s largest union of cabin crews, has recently taken a neutral position on the mask rule because its members are divided about the issue. On Monday, the union’s president appealed for calm on planes and in airports.
“The last thing we need for workers on the front lines or passengers traveling today is confusion and chaos,” union leader Sara Nelson said.
This report includes information from The Associated Press. Additional information has been added clarifying Alaska’s policy on passengers who were banned from the airline for not complying with masking rules.