Supreme Court Says Biden Can Enforce Masks On Airplanes

( The Supreme Court decided to not overturn a rule that currently gives power to TSA to initiate mandates for passengers to have to wear masks on trains, airplanes and other methods of federal transportation.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration required all passengers on federal forms of transportation to wear a mask — both while on the mode of transport as well as while waiting indoors at airports, bus stops and train depots.

Last December, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against an attorney in California who was challenging whether TSA had the authority to maintain safety and security within the federal transportation system.

The attorney, Jonathan Corbett, appealed to the Supreme Court, but the high court denied his request.

In his suit, Corbett argued that TSA didn’t have the proper authority to mandate that people wear masks on airplanes and other transportation during the pandemic.  The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t agree with his arguments, saying TSA “plainly has the authority” to do anything they need to address the security and safety of federal transportation.

In its ruling, the court wrote:

“Because we find no merit in Corbett’s claim, we deny the petition for review. The COVID-19 global pandemic poses one of the greatest threats to the operational viability of the transportation system and the lives of those on it seen in decades.”

The issue may seem like a moot point now, since the TSA no longer enforces any mask mandate. That change happened back in April, not long after another federal judge struck down the mask mandate for federal public transportation.

The mandate was set to expire a few weeks after the judge made his ruling, and the Biden administration didn’t challenge his ruling.

Long before the TSA stopped enforcing the mandate, airlines were pleading with President Joe Biden to drop both the mandate for passengers to wear masks and to meet testing requirements before any international traveler departed on a trip to the United States.

The CEOs of seven different U.S. airlines directly asked Biden to remove those mandates. The airlines included Southwest, United, JetBlue, Hawaiian, Delta, American and Alaskan.

Part of their argument was that any friction to travel resulted in negative effects on the travel industry as a whole.

When the mandate was lifted back in April, the U.S. Travel Association’s president of public affairs and policy, Tori Emerson Barnes, said:

“The current decision to halt enforcement of the federal mask mandate effectively returns the choice of mask usage on planes and other forms of public transportation to travelers and travel industry workers, a further step toward endemic management of COVID.

“We also continue to urge the administration to immediately end pre-departure testing for vaccinated in-bound international passengers, which discourages travel and provides limited public health benefits.”

While this recent denial by the Supreme Court may seem like not a big deal, it does leave in place the opportunity for TSA to make mandates like these in the future.