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CONFIRMED: Mask mandate during air travel, other public transport will be extended until January

Aug. 17, 2021
3 min read
Man wearing a mask walking with a suitcase by an American Airlines sign
CONFIRMED: Mask mandate during air travel, other public transport will be extended until January
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Editors' note: This post has been updated with a confirmation from TSA and a statement from Airlines for America.


The Transportation Security Administration confirmed to the Points Guy Tuesday evening that the federal government is extending a mask mandate on public transportation through January. The news was first reported by Reuters and CNBC, and confirmed by other TPG sources.

In a statement to TPG a spokesperson said, "TSA will extend the directives through January 18, 2022. The purpose of TSA's mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation."

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U.S. airlines were briefed on the planned extension on Tuesday morning, a source, who spoke on background because they were not permitted to discuss the topic with media, confirmed to TPG. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan to announce the extension publicly later this week or early next, the source said.

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The TSA is the agency that sets the mandate.

The current mask order was set shortly after the Biden administration took office in January, and has remained in place since. It requires face masks to be worn by travelers on all public forms of transportation, including airplanes, trains, buses, taxis, cruise ships and ferries, as well as at terminals such as airports and train stations.

The extension comes as cases rise and hospitals fill across the U.S., particularly in regions with low rates of vaccination, largely driven by the spread of the aggressive delta variant.

In May, the CDC backed off its indoor mask use guidance for vaccinated Americans, although the requirement remained in place for travel. The CDC has since reimposed guidance as breakthrough cases become more common.

“Right now for travel, we are asking people to continue to wear their masks,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in May. “We are going to be looking at all of our guidance and updating all of our guidance, including our travel guidance.”

Over recent months, an increase in unruly passenger incidents aboard aircraft has been linked partly to the enforcement of the mask mandate, particularly as mask usage as become increasingly politicized.

U.S. airlines, through trade organization Airlines for America, said in a statement that they would continue to enforce the mandate.

"As they have done for months, U.S. airlines will comply with the federal mask mandate and strictly enforce this requirement in collaboration with the TSA and the FAA," the statement said.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, praised the expected extension of the mask mandate on Tuesday.

More: What to know about COVID-19 vaccines in the US

"We have a responsibility in aviation to keep everyone safe and do our part to end the pandemic, rather than aid the continuation of it. Air travel is one of the most controlled indoor spaces with layers of safety protocols that make it possible to serve our communities," Nelson said in a statement.

"Administrator Pekoske’s decision in coordination with the Biden administration to continue the TSA enforcement directive for the CDC transportation mask mandate will help tremendously to keep passengers and aviation workers safe," she added, referring to TSA head David Pekoske.

Caroline Tanner contributed reporting.

Featured image by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases