The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced the extension of the federal face mask requirement for individuals across all transportation networks throughout the U.S. through January 18, 2022. The announcement includes mask wearing at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems.
Previously, on January 31, TSA had announced the face mask requirement with an original expiration date of May 11. Later, on April 30, TSA announced an extension to the face mask requirement through September 13, 2021.
"Extending the federal mask mandate for travel makes sense for the current health environment and has the travel industry's full support," Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy for U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement. "The universal wearing of masks in airports and on airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation is both an effective safeguard against spreading the virus and boosts public confidence in traveling—both of which are paramount for a sustained economic recovery."
As concern surrounding the Delta variant continues to grow in many parts of the U.S. and abroad, some airlines are announcing the types of masks that are acceptable for travelers to use has also changed.
In a recent tweet, Finnair shared: "Starting 16 August, we will no longer accept fabric masks on our flights. We accept surgical masks, FFP2 or FFP3 respirator masks without a valve or other valve free masks with the same standard (N95). Please remember you need to wear a mask throughout the entire journey."
Finnair isn't alone in this requirement, with additional airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa also moving to require specific surgical masks in place of the commonly used fabric options. This trend is worth keeping an eye on, as similar updates could make their way to domestic airlines in the U.S., as well. The CDC shares information on types of masks recommended and how to properly wear them.
It's important to note, however, the state of international travel—depending on your desired destination—is also evolving due to the surge of Delta COVID-19 cases. On August 30, the European Union recommended that their member states reintroduce restrictions on unvaccinated visitors from the U.S. The recommendation comes on the heels of the EU loosening U.S. restrictions not long ago in June 2021.
Being prepared and safe while heading out to travel is of course of the utmost importance. The TSA recommends airline travelers check with their airline on additional inflight restrictions prior to taking their trip and to see the CDC website for additional guidance.
For additional information about TSA procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.