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Confused About the Mask Mandate at Airports? So Are We!

APRIL 18TH UPDATE:  A Federal Judge has blocked the mask mandate extension, so masks are no longer being enforced on public transportation.  Major airlines are also posting on social media that masks will not be required on all domestic flights.  You may still want to have a few masks in your carry-on in case the policy changes again while you're waiting to board your next flight.  

APRIL 14TH UPDATE:  The CDC announced it has extended the mask mandate for public transportation until May 3rd.

Originally Posted on April 4, 2022

I haven't traveled since February 2020, so I was excited to attend a conference in March 2022.  It was a chance to get back out in the world and outside of my New York bubble.  It seems every State and Federal Agency has their own mask mandates, so I set out to see what hurtles I had to jump through to make the long awaited journey.  Luckily, the States have relaxed their mask mandates, but the TSA has extended their mask mandate until April 18th.

According to the TSA website:

At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18th.

I packed a box of masks in my carry on and made my way to the Rochester airport.  As expected, there were signs on all the doors and I could see the majority of people wearing masks through the windows.  It wasn't until I made it through security when the confusion started.

As soon as some travelers made their way past security, the masks were quickly removed.  I understand the need for people to take off their masks while eating and drinking, but walking around the airport should fall under the mask mandate according to all the signage throughout the airport. 

Should I take off my mask?  I decided to read the room and watch people while I ate my muffin.  There didn't seem to be any enforcement happening and people were starting to remove their own masks the further they got away from the checkpoints.  I was heading to a conference that was doing onsite covid testing in order to attend, so I didn't want to risk getting infected.

It wasn't until I was getting ready to board the plane that everything changed.  The gate agents strictly enforced the mask mandate before letting passengers on the plane.  More reminders were issued as I made my way to my seat.  Some passengers even tried to challenge the airline, but it was a lost cause.  I don't recommend doing this as you can be Federally charged for not listening to an airline stewardess or steward.  You also don't want over 200 fellow passengers getting mad at you for holding up their flight.

I made my way through the Baltimore and Norfolk airports with the same observations.  Even my entire trip back through the same airports had the same experience.  I decided to ask a TSA employee on the return flight and I couldn't get a definitive answer beyond there was a mask mandate until April 18th.

So what should you do?  You'll still need to have masks on hand until April 18, 2022.  Of course the TSA may decide to extend the date again.  I'm always a firm believer that someone should make their own choices, but let's not make the employee's job harder by disagreeing with a policy they have no control over.  You also don't want to be "that person" who ends up on social media confronting an airline employee.  I've always been taught to never bring unwanted attention to yourself.  

Safe travels!

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