Nearly Two Dozen State AGs File Suit to End Federal Airline Mask Mandate

Jon Dougherty
March 30, 2022

Attorney generals from 21 states have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration seeking to end the mandatory mask mandate for airlines.

In the suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the attorneys general argue that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which established the mask policy, has overstepped its statutory authority and is also acting in violation of state laws that require notice and public comment periods regarding such regulations.

In addition, the suit argues that similar mandates and restrictions handed down by the CDC, including the agency’s eviction moratorium as well as shutting down the entire cruise line industry, were previously tossed out by federal courts.

The Daily Caller adds:

The Biden administration implemented the travel mandate Feb. 1, 2021, shortly after coming into office. It has not been updated since, and no public comment has been allowed on the policy at any point. The CDC and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced an extension of the mandate March 10 until at least April 18, despite the CDC recently relaxing mask guidance and all 50 states ending their indoor mask mandates.

Airplanes remain one of the safest indoor environments an individual can be from an air quality standpoint, due to the hospital-grade air filters used on the overwhelming majority of American commercial flights to recycle air. The U.S. Senate recently voted to end the transportation mask mandate themselves, but the bill faces little prospect of passing a Democrat-controlled House or being signed by President Joe Biden.

All of the 21 Ags are Republicans.

States that have filed suit are: Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The suit states, in part:

The CDC’s mask mandate, Requirement for Persons to Wear Masks While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs, 86 Fed. Reg. 8,025 (Feb. 3, 2021), tracks a similar pattern. It has been seven months since the Supreme Court’s decision in Alabama Association of Realtors II made clear that the CDC cannot issue economywide mask mandates. More recently, even lockdown States like California have announced the end of their mask mandates. Still, the CDC unabashedly leaves its mandate intact.

Faced with a government that displays outright disdain for the limits on its power—especially when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic—Plaintiffs seek vacatur of that mask mandate and a permanent injunction against its enforcement.  

Last week, the CEOs of 10 major airlines sent a letter to President Biden demanding that his administration “sunset federal transportation travel restrictions – including the international pre-departure testing requirement and the federal mask mandate.”

The letter was signed by the CEOS for American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, Alaska Airlines, Atlas Air, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, and UPS Airlines.

“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. 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 CEOs wrote.

“The pre-departure test requirement, imposed to slow the introduction of variants into the U.S., has outlived its utility and stymies the return of international travel,” the letter continued. “ The United Kingdom (UK), the European Union, and Canada have recognized this reality and lifted travel restrictions. The U.S. inconsistency with these practices creates a competitive disadvantage for U.S. travel and tourism by placing an additional cost and burden on travel to the U.S.”

The airline execs took aim directly at the mask mandate.

“The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, as demonstrated by the recently released CDC framework indicating that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors,” the CEOs said.

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