What Does the End of the Mask Mandate Mean for FM?

Published May 01, 2022

Categories: Thought Leadership, Aviation, Facilities Management, Coronavirus

As of last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate is no longer in effect and will not be enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or any major airline.

The announcement came at the peak of spring break season – a notoriously busy time for the air travel industry. In fact, TSA data shows that an average of more than 2.1 million people have been screened at security checkpoints over the past two weeks.

Despite a lag in international and business bookings, air travel is expected to return to or even surpass pre-pandemic levels over the course of the summer.

For this reason and others, many health experts and air travelers have expressed dismay at the removal of the mask requirement.

Some have pointed out that low booster rates among seniors and other vulnerable groups make them susceptible to infection, and there is no vaccine for very young children.

Supporters of masks have even started an online petition for major airlines to designate certain flights as mask-required.

Although the mask mandate is no longer enforceable, the CDC still recommends masks in public transit settings, including airports and airplanes.

So, what does this mean for facility managers responsible for both protecting and supporting passengers and employees with varying degrees of comfortability with maskless travel?

To start, facility management teams need to be intricately familiar with the rules and regulations in place at their particular facilities.

Some major airports are still requiring masks – including LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. And face coverings may be required flying to or from some international destinations, depending on the country’s rules.

Traveling is stressful enough without the added pressure of interpreting and adhering to mask-wearing rules. Facility experts should continue to be a resource for both passengers and employees, prepared to answer questions regarding what is and isn’t allowed in different spaces.

Furthermore, facility managers should be more diligent than ever when it comes to their cleaning efforts. For as long as passenger numbers keep increasing, so too does the risk of COVID-19 infection at airports across the country.

Enhancing sanitation initiatives and increasing visibility of janitorial staff will not only help protect airport visitors, but it will boost overall confidence in the facility and reinforce your commitment to the customer.

Finally, facility leaders should remember to be flexible as we enter the next phase of pandemic travel. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can change quickly. Practicing patience and adaptability is key to providing a superior air travel experience.