Conservative Think Tank Puts Face Mask Requirement on Airlines

Conservative Think Tank Puts Face Mask Requirement on Airlines
Joe Cortez

The conservative-leaning libertarian think tank Cato Institute says that airlines should be responsible for enforcing a face mask requirement, not the Transportation Security Administration. After the security group extended their covering policy into September 2021, the institute claims they shouldn’t be responsible for one to begin with.

A conservative-leaning Washington think tank says that private industry should determine the future of face masks on flyers, instead of the Transportation Security Administration. In a recent paper, the libertarian Cato Institute says that airlines instead of government agencies should ultimately set the rules for when and where flyers wear face coverings in airports and on flights.

“Is any federal mandate necessary? No.”

The paper is in response to the TSA extending their rule requiring face mask wearing at airports and “across all transportation networks throughout the United States,” including aboard aircraft until Sept. 13, 2021. The rule is a further extension of the policy set to expire on May 11, 2021.

“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” Darby LaJoye, the senior official performing the duties of the TSA administrator, said in a press release. “Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic.”

In a counter argument, the Cato Institute claims that the TSA – or any federal agency – shouldn’t oversee when and where flyers wear face coverings. Instead, that responsibility should be handed to airlines, which they say have the full authority to set rules for flying as a passenger on their aircraft.

“Every major airline requires passengers to wear a face mask on the aircraft,” writes Jeffrey Miron and Erin Partin for the Cato Institute. “As private companies, it is well within their rights to establish the terms of their service, and the expiration of the TSA mask requirement would not prevent airlines from continuing to require masks.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was no federal-level mask mandate, leaving states and some companies to set their own rules. Despite this, every airline made wearing face coverings mandatory, with different policies to enforce it. While Alaska Airlines had a “yellow card” policy, others had a zero-tolerance policy for violators. Because of airline’s demonstrated ability to remove and ban passengers who do not wear a face covering, the think tank argues that no federal policy is needed.

“But is any federal mandate necessary? No. Airlines can threaten to kick passengers off (not yet departed) flights, or ban them from future travel on that airline, in response to non‐​compliance,” the authors write. “These enforcements mechanisms are almost certainly sufficient without a federal mandate.”

CDC Mandate Requires Face Mask Usage on Flights Indefinitely

Despite their argument, face masks remain a requirement for anyone who wants to take any form of public transportation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a national face covering mandate in February 2021, which is currently in place until the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end.

View Comments (5)


  1. Counsellor

    May 7, 2021 at 8:00 am

    That whole mask nonsense needs to end. There is not one scientific study that shows masks have any positive effect against a virus (which because of their microscopic size is like putting up a chain link fence to keep out mosquitoes) and lots that show there is a deleterious effect on users.

  2. bostontraveler

    May 10, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    What an idiotic comment.
    Counsellor stop peddling false information. It’s nauseating.

  3. bbriscoe34

    May 11, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    The mandate does need to go away for vaccinated travelers. Besides, now that they are serving drinks and you can bring your own food, I actually “wore” my mask less than half the flight last time. For a vaccinated person to wear a mask for 40% of their minutes on a plane gives you essentially zero added effective protection vs not wearing it at all.

  4. dhacker

    May 25, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    The S in TSA stands for security and as long as masks are policy, it’s the TSA’s job to help enforce and keep people safe. Don’t like it? Don’t fly. Oh, and I agree Boston traveler.

  5. timstravel

    May 29, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    Bingo, Counsellor. Too bad I can’t boycott all the airlines pushing this unscientific nonsense. Oh wait, I just did.

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