APRIL 20, 2022

A court ruling (details here) on Monday, April 18, has struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate on US public transportation, effective immediately. In response, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. A US administration official said that while the agencies are assessing potential next steps, the court's decision means the CDC's public transportation masking order is no longer in effect. The administration could still opt to appeal the order or seek an emergency delay in the order's enforcement. While masks are no longer required at this time, the CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings. On Tuesday, the Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling if the CDC determines the mandate is still necessary to protect public health.

Following the announcement, many US travel suppliers -- including all major US airlines (Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United), Amtrak, and Uber -- have all announced that masks are no longer required domestically and optional as a result. For international flights, mask requirements will depend on the arriving country requirements. Lawyers Travel anticipates that further travel suppliers are likely to follow suit.  

As we continue to see an evolution in regulatory and supplier developments, we remind our travelers to visit Travel Vitals (https://www.lawyerstravel.com/travel-vitals) for the most up-to-date information.

Click "Read More" for more details as published by CNN.

While face masks will no longer be required on a federal level throughout the US, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has announced that the mask mandate will remain in effect for some New York facilities due to local health guidance, reports Travel Market Report. The continued mandate will apply to LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), along with the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT), New York Stewart International Airport (SWF), and the World Trade Center Oculus Transportation Hub. The New York Subway system, along with the PATH Train into and out of New Jersey, will also continue to require masks due to the local New York state rules.

Meanwhile, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey's largest airport and another major metro-New York hub, along with Teterboro Airport (TEB) will not require masks moving forward, following additional New Jersey public health guidance issued on April 19.

Following the US lifting its mask mandate on public transportation on April 18, Canada announced it would retain its mask mandate, reports Skift. A spokesperson for Canada's Transport Minister confirmed that masks will continue to be required on Canadian airlines and on flights that depart from or arrive in Canada. The Canadian government stands by this decision with confidence, as surveys show that there are a majority of Canadians in favor of the mandate. The Canadian federal government also requires travelers to wear masks and track close contacts for 14 days after arriving in the country. "We are taking a layered approach to keeping travelers safe, and masks remain an incredibly useful tool in our arsenal against COVID-19," the spokesperson wrote in an email.

Days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it would change how it classifies destinations and their level of risk, the agency has removed all destinations from its highest Level 4 travel warning, reports Travel + Leisure. Moving forward, Level 4 will be reserved for "special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, or healthcare infrastructure collapse." The remaining three levels are broken down as follows:

  • Level 3 - "very high": more than 100 new cases reported per 100,000 people over the past 28 days
  • Level 2 - "moderate": between 50-100 new cases reported per 100,000 people over the last 28 days
  • Level 1 - "low": less than 50 new cases reported per 100,000 people over the last 28 days

Many destinations that were previously classified under the CDC's highest warning level were re-classified as Level 3, including much of Europe and several popular Caribbean islands. The agency has also classified the US as a Level 3 country. The CDC's decision to change how it warns against travel comes as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it would stop enforcing the federal transportation mask mandate in the US with several major airlines dropping mask rules as a result.

United Airlines has once again extended ticket validity for all wholly unused tickets purchased since May 2019, reports Travel Weekly. Under the new policy, unused tickets purchased between May 2019 and December 31, 2022, will be valid through the end of 2023. Tickets purchased on or after January 1, 2023, will be valid for 12 months from the issue date. Previously, United had set the expiration date for tickets purchased during the pandemic to the end of this year or 12 months from the purchase date, whichever fell later.

The airline also announced that effective immediately, travelers may cancel wholly unused basic economy tickets and keep those funds as credit toward another ticket. A cancellation fee of $49.50 each way for domestic tickets and $99.50 each way for international tickets will be assessed. United traditionally has not allowed any changes to basic economy itineraries, although it did allow such changes without a fee during portions of the pandemic. The airline plans to keep the new policy over the long-term.

American Airlines has announced that the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a coalition that defines and promotes best practices in emissions reduction targets, has approved American's 2035 target as consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement; this makes American the first airline in the world with a science-based target approved by SBTi. Last summer, American became the first airline in North America to make a public commitment to developing a science-based target for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

American's science-based target is to reduce carbon intensity, meaning GHG emissions per unit of passenger and cargo payload, by 45% by 2035, serving as a checkpoint on the way to 2050 which is when they aim to become a net-zero airline. American is also committed to reducing the emissions from the production of electricity the airline purchases by 40% by 2035.

Currently, 16 additional airlines across the globe, including American's partner IAG and a few US carriers, have also committed to setting science-based targets with the hope of "creat[ing] a future in which air travel's impact on the environment is far less than it is today."
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