A group of 309 pilots and flight attendants asked an appeals court to declare the federal government’s mask rule permanently illegal—after a Florida judge struck down the mandate earlier this week.
The group, who work for 16 airlines and are based in 35 states, filed arguments this week urging the court to permanently block the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from mandating a mask mandate.
On Monday, federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) rule mandating masks on airplanes and other forms of public transportation. On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed an appeal.
“It was a wonderful surprise to hear of Judge Mizelle’s ruling yesterday that vacated CDC’s unlawful Federal Transportation Mask Mandate,” Janviere Carlin, a JetBlue pilot who coordinated the signatures on the amicus curiae brief filed in support of 13 passengers in nine states, told a travel blog about their challenge. “Despite this wonderful judgment striking down CDC’s ability to force masking, we still filed our brief in the Wall v TSA case because we are not fooled into thinking that this administration will give up so easily.”
The airline workers, in their brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said the TSA cannot issue a health directive that has nothing to do with transportation security, adding that such orders violate federal safety regulations. They also argued that airplane cabins, which feature a high degree of air filtration, pose a small risk of spreading COVID-19.
“We are subject to the Mask Mandate every hour we are working, with an exception only for pilots on duty in the cockpit due to safety reasons,” they wrote (pdf) in a brief. “While passengers only have to endure forced masking when traveling on public transportation, we are expected to obstruct our oxygen intake nearly all the time while at work. This endangers our health and imperils aviation safety.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice appealed Mizelle’s ruling. Just days before the judge’s ruling, the CDC said it would extend the mask order until May.
“In light of today’s assessment by [the CDC] that an order requiring masking in the transportation corridor remains necessary to protect the public health, the department has filed a notice of appeal in Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc., et al., v. Biden, et al,” Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the agency, said in a statement on Wednesday.
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.