Airline Mask Mandate: When the Requirement Expires and What to Know Before Traveling

Here's when the TSA mask mandate will be lifted and what you should know before booking your spring break trip

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

With a busy spring break season underway, travelers are asking about the nationwide public transportation mask mandate before departing on their getaways.

Citing a recommendation federal health officials, the Transportation Security Administration announced the extension of its mask requirement on public transportation through April 18.

Under the mandate, face coverings will continue to be required on buses, trains and airplanes as well as at transportation facilities.

A day prior to the announcement earlier this month, the TSA assured flyers that it is ready for increased travel volume during spring break, also noting "we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel as demonstrated by the rapid recovery of the travel industry."

According to the TSA, during the one-month extension period, the CDC "will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required..."

The mask requirement has remained in place even after the CDC announced a shift in COVID-19 guidance late last month, saying most Americans are safe without a mask in indoor settings.

In a press release, the agency listed travel tips for the "fastest and most efficient" checkpoint experience, which includes abiding by the mask requirement.

Here's the full list of travel tips:

1. Continue to wear a face mask

The mask requirement for public transportation, including on flights and in airports, will remain in effect through April 18th at least, so don't forget the mask.

2. Follow the rule that limits liquids

Gels and aerosols are limited to 3.4 ounces or less in carry-on baggage. There is an exception for hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit. The general definition for this rule is that if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then the carry-on quantity is limited.

3. Pack food in a clear plastic bag

If you plan to travel with food, pack it in a clear plastic bag and place that clear plastic bag into your carry-on bag. When you get to the security checkpoint, remove and place the clear bag containing your food into the bin to reduce the opportunity for cross-contamination between the food and bins.

4. Leave prohibited items at home

To reduce the likelihood having to explain to TSA officers at the checkpoint, be familiar with the TSA prohibited items list for carry-on bags. Travelers can check for prohibited items by checking the TSA page.

5. Do not bring your firearm to a security checkpoint

Airline passengers can fly with firearms only in checked baggage. All firearms must be properly packed and declared with your airline at check-in. Contact your airline for additional guidance. Firearms at TSA checkpoints represent an unnecessary risk and an expensive mistake, as you may be subject to a civil penalty.

6. Give yourself plenty of time

Travel volumes are expected to be higher than they have been and some passengers may be traveling for the first time in quite a while. Extra time may be needed for parking, rental car and airline check-in counters, and at the checkpoint.

7. Empty your pockets when you get to the checkpoint

Place items inside your carry-on bag instead of into a bin to reduce touchpoints and not leave anything behind.

8. Listen for guidance from TSA officers

They may be providing information on new technologies that help reduce touchpoints and make for a more streamlined and convenient passenger experience.

9. Contact TSA with your questions

Tweet your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST or 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

10. Enroll in TSA PreCheck

The TSA PreCheck program lets users avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, laptops and light jackets. Most new enrollees receive a Known Traveler Number within five days, and membership lasts for five years.

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