Masks on planes, trains: What to know

The federal mask mandate was imposed in January 2021

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Federal officials said this week that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is extending its COVID-19 mask mandate until April 18. 

The mandate was initially set to expire on March 18, but the agency said the extra month will give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ample time to develop new, more targeted policies that will ease the nationwide mask mandate on airplanes, buses and other mass transit next month.


"During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor. This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science," the CDC said in a statement. "We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change."

The TSA enforces the rule. 

The news of the extension and policy review was first reported by Reuters.

A woman wearing a mask sits on a plane

A woman wearing a mask sits on a plane (iStock)

At the end of last month, the CDC loosened its guidance on wearing masks indoors, including for schools. 

According to a map that shows COVID-19 community levels by county, 98% of the U.S. population resides in areas where masks are not necessary indoors.

State and local officials have taken action to lift both mask and vaccine requirements over the last couple of months since January's omicron surge. 


Republican lawmakers and various travel groups have called for an end to the TSA mandate and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced this week that he would force a vote on his resolution to repeal travel mask mandates on public transportation.

However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that deciding on the right policy for travel was more complicated than setting recommendations for local communities.

"If you’re moving from one zone to another and picking people up ... it’s a little bit different, and that requires some consultation, which is what [CDC officials] are going to endeavor to do between now and April 18," she said.

People wearing masks walk around an airport

People wearing masks walk around an airport (iStock)

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week that her agency must study the science around virus transmission "but also the epidemiology and the frequency that we may encounter a variant of concern or a variant of interest in our travel corridors."

The federal mask mandate was imposed in January 2021 and has been extended several times. 

In September 2021, the TSA doubled fines for passengers who refused to don a mask on public transportation to up to $1,000 for first-time offenders and up to $3,000 for repeat violations.


Since the start of 2021, airlines have reported more than 6,000 incidents of unruly passengers – with most involving disputes related to face masks. 

Fox News' Audrey Conklin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.