SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — For the first time in more than a year, you don’t need a mask to walk through the doors of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. It’s now up to jet-setters if they mask up or not.
The change comes after a federal judge in Florida ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) overstepped its authority in issuing a mask mandate on public transportation.
That means masks are now optional for visitors, travelers and staff at Savannah/Hilton Head International.
“It’s a different look, but we’re excited about it,” said Lori Lynah, director of marketing and air service development. “I mean, people are happy about it and I think the thing is you’re still going to have a lot of people that are going to wear masks because they feel more comfortable — and that’s perfectly acceptable now.”
The rule also applies to most domestic flights. So far, the majority of airlines flying out of Savannah/Hilton Head — including Delta, American, United, Southwest and JetBlue — say they’re leaving it up to passengers.
“It was a lot easier, a lot more comfortable,” said Bill, who flew on Southwest from Massachusetts. “There wasn’t any kind of an issue, nobody went crazy.”
On the first full day of the new guidance, about half of the travelers at Savannah/Hilton Head dropped their masks, while others said they aren’t comfortable with it.
“We didn’t know that it changed until we got on the plane and they explained that it was optional,” said Jen, who was traveling from Ohio. “I’m sticking with it. I’ve managed not to be sick yet, I’m going to continue it. It’s all people you’re not used to being with, close to and so we’re sticking with it for now.”
Airport officials said their policy depends on the federal guidance, so they’re prepared to make changes if needed. But for some travelers, they’re ready to fly mask-free for good.
“I won’t wear it again if I don’t have to,” Bill said. “The only way I’d put it back on is if they require it.”
The CDC is still recommending that people wear masks while in indoor public transportation, so other cities may have different rules. Airport officials said to make sure you check your specific airline and destination for their mask guidance before heading out.