Supreme Court dismisses challenge against federal mask mandate for air travel

Dec 12, 2021

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The U.S. Supreme Court this week rejected a challenge to block the federal mask mandate at U.S. airports and domestic air travel amid the ongoing pandemic. Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. denied the 89-page emergency petition for review without comment and without referring the application to the full court.

The lawsuit was seeking an immediate injunction to stop the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) mandate requiring face coverings, on the grounds of medical reasons. Michael Seklecki filed the suit on behalf of himself and his autistic son. Seklecki says he and his son can’t tolerate wearing masks, and the son needs to fly on a regular basis to seek out-of-state medical care. Lucas Wall, who has already filed another lawsuit seeking to block the mask mandate, also joined the case.

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The New York Times reported on the TSA’s response to the lawsuit. The agency argued that Congress put the mask mandate in place to protect passengers, and argued that the plaintiffs failed to “[pursue] an available procedure for obtaining medical exemptions.” Chief Justice Roberts did not comment on his ruling or refer it to the full court. According to the Times, this suggests he “viewed the legal question in the case as insubstantial.” In other words, this lawsuit has no chance to be taken up by the highest court in the land.

The TSA implemented the latest mask requirement shortly after President Joe Biden took office in January. The mandate applies to everyone passing through “TSA airport screening checkpoints and throughout the commercial and public transportation systems.” The mandate applies to all U.S. airports, commercial aircraft, buses and rail systems.

Related: New rules for international travel, mask mandate extended

Airline employees have had to endure a huge increase in unruly passengers and sometimes violent confrontations with passengers over the enforcement of the mask mandate.

Related: If you threaten a Delta employee, you could lose your SkyMiles

The TSA has extended the mask mandate several times to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and most recently extended it again during the outbreak traced to the delta variant of the coronavirus. The mask requirement will remain in place until at least March 18, 2022, at which time the TSA will review it and decide whether or not to extend it once again.

Featured Image: SOPA Images for Getty Images.

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