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A union representing flight attendants is calling on the Biden administration to extend a rule requiring passengers to wear face masks on planes.
Letting the mask requirement expire on March 18 would put some passengers in danger, such as the children under 5 who haven’t been vaccinated, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement to Bloomberg. The union represents about 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines.
“We have every expectation that the mask mandate will be extended for the near term,” the union said. “The conditions in aviation are the same. Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine.”
Though some airlines imposed their own face mask rules in 2020, the Biden administration’s federal face mask rule went into effect in February 2021 and has been extended twice since then. The Transportation Security Administration says people can be fined if they don’t wear masks on planes, trains, buses, and ships or in airports, train and bus stations, and ports.
TSA spokesperson Patricia Mancha told The New York Times on Tuesday that the mask requirement is still scheduled to expire March 18.
“If there is a change to halt or extend the mask requirement, we will make an announcement,” she said in an email. “As of now, nothing new to share.”
Many state and local governments are dropping face mask rules as the surge of Omicron-related cases subsides across the United States.
The Federal Aviation Administration says face masks have been part of disturbances on commercial airlines.
As of Feb. 22, there have been 607 reports of unruly passengers this calendar year, with 397 of those incidents related to face masks, the FAA says. During 2021, there were 5,981 reports of unruly passengers on planes, with 4,290 cases related to face masks.
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