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Twenty-five months after the pandemic shut the world down, the public transit mask mandate seems to be ending. A federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s extension of the mandate in a ruling Monday morning.

While some public health officials expressed concerns, most major airlines had issued statements by Monday night wearing a mask on flights would now be optional.

Major airlines issue statements that masks are now optional

Delta airlines welcomed the change, calling the news a “relief”. The airline said lifting the mandate will help “facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus.”

In a post to the company’s Instagram, United Airlines told passengers to “prepare for takeoff”.

“Masks are no longer required on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s requirements) or at U.S. airports,” the post read. “More comfortable keeping yours on? Go right ahead… the choice is yours!”

American, Southwest, Jetblue and other airlines also lifted the requirements on their airlines following the news.  While Frontier and Spirit airlines have yet to issue a formal statement, they will likely do the same.

Alaska Airlines issued one of the more heartfelt statements in their policy shift. Max Tidwell, Vice President of Safety & Security at Alaska Airlines, expressed gratitude for passengers and crew alike.

“It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change,” Tidwell said. “I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we’re known for.”

Tidwell went on to say the airline is “thankful for our guests who remained considerate, patient and stood by us throughout every twist and turn.”  However, the airline was certain to note that passengers previously removed previously for “particularly egregious behavior” during the mandate will remain banned from flying.

Biden administration seems unlikely to challenge ruling

In a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the ruling by a Trump appointed judge “disappointing”, but stopped short of indicating plans to challenge it.

According to CNN, Psaki said the Justice Department “will make any determinations about a legal response”.

Regardless of a mandate being in place, the White House encourages passengers to wear masks as cases rise again.

“We would say to anyone sitting out there that we recommend you wear masks on the airplane,” Psaki told reporters. “As soon as we can provide an update from here, hopefully soon, we’ll provide that to all of you.”

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...