TSA extends to January mask rule for airline passengers

National News

Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport, in Salt Lake City. The number of people flying in the United States has eclipsed the year-ago level for the first time in the pandemic period, although travel remains deeply depressed from 2019. The Transportation Security Administration said 1.34 million people passed through U.S. airport checkpoints on Sunday, March 14 topping the 1.26 million people that TSA screened on the comparable Sunday a year ago. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Federal officials are extending into January a requirement that people on airline flights and public transportation wear face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Transportation Security Administration’s current order was scheduled to expire Sept. 13. An agency spokesman said Tuesday that the mandate will be extended until Jan. 18.

The TSA briefed airline industry representatives on its plan Tuesday.

The mask mandate has been controversial and has led to many encounters between passengers who don’t want to wear a mask and flight attendants asked to enforce the rule. The extension, however, was not surprising after a recent surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the delta variant of the virus.

The rule also applies to travelers on public transportation including trains, subways and buses.

In recent days, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines have reported that the increase in coronavirus infections has caused a slump in bookings beyond the usual slowdown that occurs near the end of each summer.

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