Comfort With U.S. Air Travel Hits One-Year High Despite Mask Mandate Repeal, Poll Finds

Comfort With U.S. Air Travel Hits One-Year High Despite Mask Mandate Repeal, Poll Finds

Topline

Americans’ comfort with domestic air travel has hit its highest point in a little more than a year, new Morning Consult polling finds, ticking up slightly after a federal judge struck down the mask mandate for planes and other public transportation—even as a majority of Americans say they would have preferred the mandate to have stayed in place.

Key Facts

The weekly tracking poll, conducted Saturday among 2,200 U.S. adults, found 52% of Americans now feel comfortable flying domestically, up from 50% the week before.

That’s the highest share of Americans who feel comfortable on U.S. flights since Morning Consult started polling the question in January 2021, up from a previous high of 51% on March 21.

The poll found 51% of Americans are comfortable with air travel overall, up from 50% last week and tied with March 6 for the highest level of the pandemic.

Fewer Americans—36%—are fine with international travel, which is up one percentage point from last week but still below the 38% high recorded on March 6.

Americans’ comfort with bus and train travel has also slightly risen over last week despite many companies dropping their mask mandates: 53% are comfortable on trains and 47% on buses, which are both one point higher than last week.

A significant 73% majority said they’re comfortable going on vacation, which is up from 69% last week and tied with April 3 for the highest share recorded since polling started in April 2020.

Big Number

57%. That’s the share of U.S. voters who say they supported the federal transportation mask mandate being extended until May 3, as the Biden administration originally planned before a judge struck the order down. The Morning Consult/Politico poll, conducted April 22-25, also found 45% believe it’s “too early” for mask mandates on public transportation to end, while 20% say it’s “the right time.”

Contra

While the share of Americans comfortable with flying is going up, it’s still below the comfort level for many other activities: 76% feel comfortable dining at a restaurant, 66% socializing in public places, 62% going to a wedding, 60% going to the movies and 58% going to an amusement park, for instance, according to Morning Consult’s weekly polling.

Tangent

A recent Axios/Ipsos poll conducted after the mask mandate was struck down found 49% of respondents say the mask mandate being repealed won’t have any impact on whether or not they’ll fly now, though 27% said they’re more likely to fly and 23% said they’re less likely to. Approximately half (47%) still plan to wear masks on airplanes, and 46% on public transportation and in airports.

What To Watch For

The Biden administration is appealing the ruling that struck down the mask mandate, which could let the government put the mandate back in place should the appeals court rule in its favor.

Key Background

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the federal mask mandate as unlawful on April 18, just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had extended it by another two weeks, ruling the CDC had exceeded its authority in imposing it. Mizelle’s decision immediately led major airlines and other transportation companies like Amtrak and Uber to drop their mask mandates—even letting passengers take off their masks mid-flight—though some public transportation networks like the New York City subway system have kept mask orders in place. The repeal came as other mask mandates had already been lifted nationwide after Covid-19 cases plunged following a winter surge, though cases are now once again on the rise thanks to the highly transmissible omicron BA.2 subvariant. The CDC had said when extending the mask mandate until May 3 that it wanted to see if the subvariant would cause a new rise in severe illness and hospitalization before it made the call to lift the mask requirement.

Further Reading

Tracking the Return to Normal: Travel (Morning Consult)

Judge Declares Federal Public Transportation Mask Mandate Unlawful (Forbes)

Federal Mask Mandates For Airplanes, Transportation Dropped—But Americans Seem To Want Them, Polls Suggest (Forbes)

Only Half Of Americans Comfortable Flying Right Now, Poll Finds As CDC Weighs Extending Mask Mandate (Forbes)

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