Marty Chavez stepped into the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for his flight to Ohio early Tuesday and frantically began to search for his mask.
He turned to a United Airlines employee standing nearby and asked if he had a spare.
“Sir, the mandate has been lifted,” the worker said. “You don’t have to wear a mask.”
One day after a federal court judge struck down a rule that required people to wear masks on planes, at airports, on subways and in other public transportations settings, similar scenes were playing out at airports and other places across the country as Americans adjusted to the end of a mandate that had persisted when many others were allowed to expire.
Airlines and travel groups on Tuesday were cheering the decision handed down Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida.
Several airlines, including United, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, whose chief executives in recent weeks had lobbied for the mandate’s end, quickly announced they would no longer enforce the rule. Amtrak, Uber and Lyft also told travelers that masks were optional.
In the Washington region, Metro announced late Monday that masks were optional on its rail and bus systems for customers and Metro employees.
TSA stops mask enforcement after federal judge voids mandate
The transportation mandate has been among the highest-profile mask requirements in the country, continuing even after most school districts and other jurisdictions have allowed similar mandates to expire. Conflicts over masks have been particularly acute on airplanes, where some flight attendants have been physically attacked and verbally abused for enforcing mask rules.