The chief executives of the largest U.S. airlines asked President Biden on Wednesday to allow a federal mask mandate at airports and on planes to expire next month.
The group also asked that the government drop a requirement that visitors from abroad provide a negative coronavirus test before traveling to the United States.
“The persistent and steady decline of hospitalization and death rates are the most compelling indicators that our country is well protected against severe disease from Covid-19,” the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and several other passenger and cargo carriers wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden.
“Given that we have entered a different phase of dealing with this virus, we strongly support your view that ‘Covid-19 need no longer control our lives,’” they said, citing a phrase the president used in his State of the Union address earlier this month.
The letter represents the first time that the industry has publicly united against the mask mandate, which was recently extended until mid-April. At a congressional hearing in December, Gary Kelly, the chief executive of Southwest Airlines, cast doubt on the effectiveness of masks on planes, but he stood alone. A day later, Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, told CNBC, “Masks are going to be important as a safeguard for a while yet.”
Earlier this week, TWU Local 556, the union that represents flight attendants from Southwest Airlines, wrote a letter to the Biden administration urging it to drop the federal mask mandate for public transportation.
A growing chorus of Americans, politicians and business leaders have called for an end to such mandates. This month, Hawaii became the 50th and final state to drop its indoor mask mandate.