Thousands of Southwest flight attendants are demanding the end of the federal mask mandates for air travel as airline leaders across the country do the same.

The TWU Local 556 union, which represents 16,000 Southwest flight attendants, sent a letter to President Joe Biden and other federal officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Federal Aviation (FAA) administrator Stephen Dickson, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administrator David Pekosk, asking them to finally “lift the federal mask mandate as soon as is practicable.”

They explained that they understood the previous need for the requirement and noted that they complied without complaint.

“However, the drastic decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases warrants reevaluating the mandate’s extension through April 18, 2022,” the letter reads as they noted that many others — states and local governments alike — have lifted their mask requirements. Nonetheless, airline employees are still stuck enforcing this outdated rule.

“Serving onboard during these contentious times and enforcing mask compliance is one of the most difficult jobs we have ever faced as flight attendants,” they wrote:

 Not since September 11, 2001, has our job environment changed so drastically and quickly. The number of physical and verbal assaults in our workplace has increased dramatically, many of which are related to mask compliance. Through it all, our Members have continued to respond professionally and responsibly with safety and security as our main priority.

“It is important to note that a large portion of our membership has expressed that they would like the freedom to choose whether to wear a mask at work,” the letter continued, demanding the Biden White House give both members as well as passengers the “opportunity to choose if they prefer to wear a mask while flying.”

mask on airplane

Passengers and a worker are wearing masks on an airplane (Getty Images/Yaroslav Astakhov).

“In the spirit of bringing normalcy back to our frontlines as aviation’s first responders, we ask that you consider lifting the federal mask mandate for airline travel and will move expeditiously to restore choice to aviation professionals and the flying public,” the letter concluded.

Indeed, even as blue states — some of which had the most stringent restrictions in the country — lift their mask mandates, the Biden administration has failed to take action to end the federal mask mandate for air travel, as the TSA extended the rule yet again this month, moving it from March 18 to April 18.

The union is not the only sect demanding action from the White House. This week, several airline leaders signed a letter sent to the White House as well, also demanding the end of unscientific restrictions, including the mask mandate and predeparture testing requirements. Notably, Southwest Airlines chairman Gary C. Kelly is among those who signed the letter.

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