Masks Will Be Required on Planes, Trains, and in Airports Until at Least January 2022

The TSA has extended its mask-wearing policy in major transit hubs due to the delta variant.

The Transportation Security Administration on Wednesday extended a federal transportation mask mandate until January 2022 as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread throughout the United States.

The mandate has been extended until at least January 18, the TSA shared with Travel + Leisure. The mandate, first reported by Reuters, requires face masks be worn on all public transportation like on planes, in airports, on trains, and on buses.

The mask mandate was first implemented in January before being extended through Sept. 13.

"The purpose of TSA's mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation," an agency spokeswoman told T+L.

Enforcement has largely fallen on flight attendants who have reported an alarming increase in unruly passengers this year. Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said the extension of the mask mandate would "help tremendously to keep passengers and aviation workers safe."

Passengers in masks at DFW airport
Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Masks are the most effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19," Nelson said in a statement. "We all look forward to the day masks are no longer required but we're not there yet. Let's focus on putting COVID-19 in check together."

The extension comes as Americans have taken to the skies in record numbers this summer that, at points, have rivaled pre-pandemic travel. On many days, the TSA has screened more than 2 million passengers.

Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association, told T+L in a statement the extension "makes sense" for the current health and travel climate.

"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," she added.

Several destinations and businesses have implemented indoor mask mandates in recent weeks, including Las Vegas, Disney, and Carnival Cruise Line ships.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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