Passengers cheer as airlines drop mask mandate after federal judge's ruling

A federal judge's Monday decision to strike down the national mask mandate for planes, trains, buses and other forms of public transportation quickly led to airlines allowing travelers to ditch them — some even in midflight.

Passengers posted videos to social media of flight crews announcing the change in mask policy and flight attendants walking through the aisles with trash bags collecting discarded masks.

One flight attendant who sang an impromptu song instructing passengers to "throw away your mask" was showered with applause.

Other passengers took selfies celebrating the fact that masks were no longer required to fly.

The abrupt shift in policy came after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled that the masking regulation enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February 2021 “exceeded the CDC statutory authority” and that its mandate was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Last week, the CDC extended the mask mandate through May 3, saying it needed more time to gather data on the BA.2 Omicron subvariant of COVID-19, which has led to a recent surge in cases across the country.

Two people, not wearing masks, wheel suitcases through an airport.
Travelers without masks in Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. (Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)

Mizelle was nominated by former President Donald Trump and confirmed to a lifetime appointment by the Senate in 2020. At 33, she became the youngest judge to be nominated by Trump, just eight years after graduating from law school at the University of Florida.

The White House said that federal agencies were reviewing the judge's decision, but added that the Transportation Security Administration would no longer enforce its travel mask mandate.

A Delta pilot who read the White House statement to passengers before takeoff was greeted with cheers.

But not everyone was so celebratory.

“This isn’t just about planes,” tweeted Jerome Adams, the former U.S. surgeon general who served under Trump. “This means a 4 year old kid with cancer who’s [sic] parents have no vehicle might be forced to sit next to a floridly sick / coughing covid patient with no mask on a bus, while going to get chemo. But tell me about the great ventilation systems on those.”