Southwest Masks No Longer Required, as Top Las Vegas Airline Celebrates Federal Order

Posted on: April 19, 2022, 01:15h. 

Last updated on: April 19, 2022, 02:47h.

Southwest Airlines no longer requires face masks for passengers. The decision comes after a federal judge in Florida yesterday ruled against the ongoing federal transportation mask mandate.

Southwest Las Vegas airport mask mandate
A photo shared on Twitter shows passengers rejoicing midflight on April 19, 2022, after the pilot announced that masks are no longer required for travelers. Las Vegas’ predominant airline — Southwest — was among the airlines to swiftly lift its masking requirement. (Image: Twitter)

US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle — who was appointed to the court at the age of 33 by then-President Donald Trump in November of 2020 — ruled that the Biden administration’s federal mask mandate is “unlawful.”

“As travelers have been reminded for more than a year, federal law requires wearing a mask in airports, train stations, and other transportation hubs, as well as on airplanes, buses, trains, and most other public conveyances in the United States,” Mizelle wrote in her order. “This masking requirement — commonly known as the Mask Mandate — is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulation published in the Federal Register.

The Court concludes that the Mask Mandate exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking under the APA [Administrative Procedure Act],” her order continued. “Accordingly, the Court vacates the Mandate and remands it to the CDC.”

With the order, the federal Mask Mandate is currently unenforceable. As such, masks are no longer federally required at commercial airports. Southwest, which brings more people to Las Vegas than any other airline, was among the first airlines to announce that it’s ditching masks, too.

Masks Discarded

Though Las Vegas casinos are experiencing record gaming revenue, visitation to the world’s most famous gambling town remains down compared with pre-pandemic numbers.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) says approximately 32.2 million people visited the casino town last year. Although that was a 69% year-over-year gain, the number remained 24% lower than the 42.5 million visitors who traveled to Las Vegas in 2019.

As for Harry Reid International — Las Vegas’ primary commercial airport that was known as McCarran until its name change last year to honor the late longtime US Nevada senator, Southwest is the dominant carrier. Of the 39.7 million passengers served by LAS last year, Southwest handled 14 million passengers — or 35% of the traffic.

Southwest said in its decision to no longer require masks aboard its planes that its 737 aircraft are equipped with air filtration systems that claim to remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles.

Harry Reid’s four other leading carriers — Spirit, Frontier, American, and Delta — also no longer necessitate masks for travelers or employees.

COVID-19 Cases Rising

The unmasking of travel in the US comes as COVID-19 infections are once again on the rise. The US is averaging approximately 36,200 new coronavirus infections a day, and roughly 460 daily deaths are linked to the disease.

Calling Mizelle’s order “disappointing,” the White House urged travelers to continue wearing masks on airlines and other modes of public transportation. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the TSA and CDC are reviewing the judicial order.

It’s safer for individuals who are flying to continue to wear masks,” Psaki said. “So, we would say to anyone, “We’d recommend you wear masks on the airplane.'”

Psaki says the White House hopes to have an update on the situation “soon.”