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Everything B.C. residents need to know about the new U.S. travel rules regarding face masks

How will the rule affect flights departing Canada for the U.S.?
Residents of British Columbia must wear face masks on flights visiting Canadian airports but do not need to on domestic flights in the United States.

How did you feel about the province lifting the mask mandate? 

According to a recent Vancouver Is Awesome poll, not everyone wants to ditch their face masks, even if they aren't required to wear them. In fact, 42 per cent of respondents said they'd continue to mask up (at least in some situations). 

But residents of British Columbia are still required to sport face masks when they travel, as federal rules override provincial ones. 

Travellers flying into or out of Canadian airports must need to mask up, both inside of the terminal and on the plane. They must also don masks when they board cruise ships. 

South of the border, however, travellers are no longer required to mask up on domestic flights. A federal judge in Florida struck down the mandate on airplanes and mass transit Monday (April 18), and some airlines and airports swiftly removed their face mask requirements.

Not all airlines and airports have welcomed the change, however. New York City airports have so far left the mask policy in place, with the exception of Newark Liberty International Airport in neighbouring New Jersey.

The Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s largest union of cabin crews, has also taken a neutral position on the mask rule because its members are divided about the issue. 

Face mask mandate: Flying between the United States and British Columbia

While the United States has relaxed its position on face coverings on planes, Canada still requires travellers who depart from the U.S. airports to wear them on flights entering the country. 

Canada has not changed its travel requirement for face masks, Transport Canada spokesperson Valérie Glazer told V.I.A., who added that the department will base decisions on the latest public health advice.

"Our top priority throughout the pandemic has been to keep Canadians safe," she wrote in an email. "We are taking a layered approach to keeping travellers safe, and masks remain an incredibly useful tool in our arsenal against COVID-19."

Canada's mask requirement applies to all carriers, whether they are domestic or international, and for the duration of the flight, whether it is fully within Canada or not.

Air Canada told V.I.A. in an emailed statement that it has "advocated for a science-based approach to ensure safety" but will continue to see how other countries adjust their policies. 

"We have also said policies should be consistent with other activities and jurisdictions to make it easier for customers and to facilitate compliance," said the airline. 

Similarly, WestJet spokesperson Madison Kruger told V.I.A. that the airline has been monitoring developments concerning mask mandates in the United States and abroad. 

"The removal of the requirement to wear a mask for domestic flights in the United States, along with other jurisdictions that have done so previously, highlights the need for harmonization and consistency of these mandates across borders to eliminate confusion for our guests," she explained. 

While the order requiring masks is no longer in effect, the Centres for Disease Control in the United States continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.

With files from the Canadian Press