CDC Mask Guidance Remains In Place For Airline Travel


While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on Thursday to state that people fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) can stop wearing masks in most situations, the agency emphasized that the change does not apply to commercial air travel. The CDC also cautioned that international travelers arriving in the U.S. are still required  to get tested for COVID-19 within three days of their flight regardless of their vaccination status. Individuals traveling within the U.S. do not need to be tested or self-quarantine.

“Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the agency said. “You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.”

According to the CDC, 46.6 percent of the total U.S. population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose and 35.8 percent has been fully vaccinated. The agency considers an individual to have been fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Interesting, and as usual, almost no mention of people that have contracted the C-19 virus and recovered. Who’s immunity to the virus is much better than any person that’s taken an immunotherapy injection (aka: vaccine). Perhaps virus safety guidelines / protocols should continue to be made-up as we go along. Certainly common sense and logic need to be censored and suppressed, …to of course perpetuate a pseudo crisis that has so far cost a fortune and changed how citizens of free countries live.

    • I guess that the number of persons already immune before vaccination is at least 10%, given the number of people who have had the disease (recorded or not, as many people shrug it off so are not a statistic), and an unknown number who had immunity from something earlier in their life.

      Key in risk assessment of course is vulnerability – almost always poor health. A very large proportion of those people are in care residences so unlikely to fly. Persons with deficient immune systems are taking care of themselves – self isolating, one I know had an organ transplant some years ago. There are persons with unrealized vulnerability, such as anorexics, boozers (bad die and addled thinking), buttmouths (deteriorated lungs), and persons with obesity combined with uncontrolled diabetes plus lack of exercise (those often go together, swelling is the actual risk factor). Know your own health I say.

      • Erps, bad diet I meant.
        (Sit on a couch eating pastries and you will become a vulnerable potato, with risk that you will die from something before other people do – heart attack for example.)

    • “Who’s immunity to the virus is much better than any person that’s taken an immunotherapy injection (aka: vaccine).”

      This is incorrect. All studies have shown that the current vaccines that have been approved in the U.S. provide a far better immune response than natural immunity, specifically, exposure to wild type.

      Take a look at this interview with Professor Shane Crotty where he gives a very good explanation of immune response and the efficacy of the available covid vaccines:

      And here is another explanation of naturally acquired immunity vs. vaccine induced immunity:

      • Interesting data, not sure i buy it. If this was true homo sapien would have never made it past the first disease. We would not be here to debate about it. Don’t believe everything you hear and read, a significant number of people in the medical community profit handsomely for spouting their “Opinon”.

        • On the other hand, everything I’ve seen coming from sources I find reason to trust supports that data.

          You’re right on the cusp of looking like a kook with the opinion as presented.

          • Eh call me what you want, Don’t care. you are free to believe what you want. Does not mean i will call you a kook or any other name. You all get testy when someone does not agree with your position or your data. So be it, again -don’t care.

        • I did not cite opinion, I cited experts in the field. I am not a medical professional, so I look to actual professionals for information, the same way I expect someone to turn to me for Data Engineering advice instead of getting an opinion about Data Engineering from their uber drivers.

          There is plenty of reliable data out there from reliable sources, so if each of us would just stay in our lanes and resist theurge to have an opinion on topics we know little or nothing about we’d be better off.

          Professor Shane Crotty is extremely well respected virologist with degrees from MIT and UCSF. I’ll take his word over the word of anyone on this forum when it comes to pandemic related topics.

        • “ If this was true homo sapien would have never made it past the first disease.”

          I’m not sure I follow the logic. The vaccine is better than natural immunity just like four-wheel ABS power disc brakes are better than manual drum brakes.

          Just because manual drum brakes are not as good as modern discs doesn’t mean everyone before couldn’t stop at all and crashed. It’s just modern brakes stop better and reduce the number of crashes.

          Similarly, natural immunity is pretty effective, but vaccine immunity is better.

          • I see, so if that is case, then how did our ancestors survive prior to vaccines? Since its “beter”? Just trying to learn something here. I am open minded but skeptical.

          • “if that is case, then how did our ancestors survive prior to vaccines?”

            Simple. They developed a natural immunity to diseases. Some still died, but enough lived to keep the species going.

            Some vaccines confer even more protection than natural immunity. So even fewer people die and more live.

            For example, when was the last time you heard of someone dying of polio, or being stuck in an ‘iron lung’? Humanity survived such diseases despite the number of deaths. With vaccines, almost nobody deals with polio at all.

          • “I see, so if that is case, then how did our ancestors survive prior to vaccines?’

            Anthony, this statement alone demonstrates that you are totally unqualified to pass judgement on vaccines. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but that does not mean your opinion is valid. A valid opinion is supported by facts and evidence. Your opinion is highly uninformed and that would be fine if it was simply an opinion about a trivial topic, like was Dick York or Dick Sargent the better Darrin in Bewitched. But when it come to a topic of public health and safety, having too many people possess uninformed opinions such as yours is actually dangerous and that is why some in this thread was compelled to call you a “kook”.

            Virology and epidemiology are highly complex topics and trying to simplify it to “if we really needed vaccines then our ancestors would not have survived the first disease” means that you do not understand how a pathogen moves through a population and how thousands of factors (including environment and genetic distribution) impact an individual’s ability to respond and the impact on the entire population is subject to many different variables. If fact, there have been populations that have been wiped out by disease. And the plague (of the 1600s) wiped out 50% of Europe’s population. Had Europe had a vaccine or antibiotics during that time then the death rate would have been far lower, probably less than 5%.

            Also, if you would have read one of the links I sent that talks about the effectivity of the covid vaccines vs. natural immunity, it gives a very detailed explanation about how the antibody count in vaccinated individuals was not only 10 times higher than those who recovered from a prior covid infection. I addition, the immune response from the vaccines covered a wider range of antibodies. From the article:

            “The vaccines induced robust reactivity levels, including antibodies against the full-length spike protein, S1 and S2 subunits, and the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor on host cells. Cross-reactive antibodies between the spike protein and RBD induced by the vaccine could possibly provide protection against emerging variants.

            This differs from the response from natural infection, which had weak antibody levels against RBD but produced the highest levels of antibodies against nucleocapsid protein (NP) antigens. Anti-nucleocapsid antibodies weren’t affected by the vaccines and could indicate prior natural exposure.”

            These are not my words. They are the words of academics and other really smart people who know a hell of a lot more on the topic than myself or anyone else on this forum. And as I mentioned earlier, I am apt to consider their information to be far more credible that that of someone who thinks vaccines aren’t better because if they were then our ancestors would not have survived the first disease.

  2. How long before mandated mask wearers = nonconformists = targets of blame for just about anything?

  3. Keep in mind that air circulation is a factor in the recommendations, whether or not expressed explicitly.

    Bjorn discussed airliner circulation at length in the Leeham News blog, months ago, noting the direction of airflow in airliner cabins, air exchange rate, and the prevalence of HEPA filters.

    Still, I would wear a mask if seated next to someone rather than an empty seat between me and another person.

  4. Don’t forget, an important reason to wear a mask is to protect other people from any infection you may have. And, while being fully vaccinated reduces the probability that you will catch COVID-19, and that you will spread it, but it does not make the probability zero. Wearing a mask should not simply be a matter of how much risk you are willing to accept, but also a matter of loving they neighbour as thyself.

    • It’s absolutely correct that the main function of a mask is to prevent the wearer from spreading virus they are shedding if they are infected. That said, the reason for the CDC’s new guidance is that two recent studies, one from Israel and one from the U.S., have shown that vaccinated people are up to 97% less likely to transmit the disease, so while this is not zero, it’s fair to say that vaccinated people are now known to not be a risk to non-vaccinated people.

      The main reason for airlines maintaining their mask policy is that as of right now there is no real effective way to determine who is vaccinated and who is not and there is no practical way for flight crews to determine which passengers should be wearing masks, so it simply makes sense to maintain mask policy until we hit herd immunity.

  5. All this over a little mask wearing. Glad this generation never had to face WW-II.

  6. I think I might continue to wear a mask on an airplane even after the requirement to wear one is no longer in effect. For me, wearing a mask is not a big deal and, no offense to those HEPA filters, I feel safer when I’m wearing one.