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Alaska Airlines Says It's Keeping This Ban After Lifting the Mask Mandate

Most passengers may now fly maskless, but some are still bound to COVID-era restrictions.

After two years of ongoing modifications to the travel industry wrought by the pandemic, the federal mandate requiring mask-wearing on airplanes is no more. The expiration of the mask mandate was set for an extension following its April 18 expiration date, but a federal judge in Florida struck down the White House's plan. This paved the way for multiple major domestic carriers to lift the requirement for passengers and crew—a major milestone marking a new phase of COVID as history is being written in real time.

Still, passengers shouldn't necessarily expect an immediate return to the precise pre-pandemic circumstances when it comes time to board their next flight. For instance, Alaska Airlines has already announced a key caveat as well as a slate of continuing restrictions that affect travelers. Read on to learn what they are and if they will affect your trip.

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With the authority to choose, major U.S. airlines lifted their mask mandates for domestic flights.

Side view with focus on background of mature Caucasian mother and teenage daughter wearing protective masks as they travel by airplane in time of COVID-19.

Days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had extended the mask mandate until May 3, the Florida judge's ruling instead made the choice to require masks up to the airlines. Right away, the biggest domestic carriers lifted the requirement for flights in the U.S. and passengers were able to fly maskless for the first time in two years. (The CDC still recommends mask mandates as the omicron subvariant known as BA.2, now dominant, is responsible for increased case numbers around the country.)

But some restrictions remain, and Alaska Airlines laid them out in a statement aimed at travelers.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 landing at Portland International Airport at dusk.

Although Alaska Airlines will not require its passengers to wear masks in domestic airports or flights, it will still require passengers to keep wearing them on flights traveling both to and from Canada, which still has a federal mandate in place. It's also requiring its passengers to wear masks when traveling through the international airports it serves, which include locations in Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

"It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change," Max Tidwell, vice president of safety and security at Alaska Airlines, noted in a statement aimed at its customers. "I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we're known for. We're also thankful for our guests who remained considerate, patient and stood by us throughout every twist and turn."

But there is another key exception to the mask rules on Alaska, according to the statement.

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Even under the new policy, Alaska Airlines will still ban these passengers from flying.

he Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) in Alaska is one of the main cargo hubs in the world and a main base for Alaska Airlines.

The Alaska Airlines statement noted that guests who were banned because of not following its previous mask policy will not be granted access to fly now that the ban is lifted.

"Throughout the last two years, we have relied on reporting from agents and flight attendants to ban non-compliant guests from traveling while the federal mask policy remained in effect," the statement reads. "Based on our reports, we will have some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious who will remain banned, even after the mask policy is rescinded."

Alaska urged passengers to behave respectfully amid the transition.

Pilots and passengers wear face masks as they walk inside the terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport walk inside a terminal.

Although masks are no longer required, Alaska's statement also encouraged its travelers to continue to make their own personal choices—and included an appeal for flyers to behave civilly in an emotionally charged transitional environment.

"Safety is always our highest priority, so while we love to see your smiling faces in the airport and on board, we respect your decision to keep using this added layer of protection," the statement reads. "Above all, we hope you'll treat each other with kindness and respect throughout the travel journey and beyond."

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Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more
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