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Billings air travelers happy to ditch face masks after federal mandate lifted

Posted at 7:59 AM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 09:59:35-04

BILLINGS — Air passengers at Billings Logan International Airport said on Tuesday they were happy to ditch their face masks after about two years of masked travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be great," said Gina Earnst, a frequent flier from Billings.

Earnst flies out of town about once a week for work. She said her flights will be a little bit less claustrophobic now that she's not required to wear a mask, but it was still weird arriving to the airport without one on.

Gina Earnst speaks with MTN News before her flight to California for work on Tuesday.

"It's kind of scary almost. It was kind of like, is this okay? Am I going to get in trouble? Nobody said anything, we're all good. It's kind of exciting," Earnst said.

A federal judge struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask requirement for air travel in a Monday ruling.

Dozens of old signs requesting passengers wear face coverings were taken down at the Billings airport on Tuesday morning and placed in basement storage.

Dozens of signs reminding airline passengers to wear face masks sit in basement storage at Billings Logan International Airport.

"It was kind of interesting to watch, actually. People were rejoicing," said Kevin Ploehn, director of aviation and transit for the Billings airport.

Ploehn said he saw passengers in the terminal cheering as maintenance crews removed the signs. The mandate's removal was welcome for airport staff who've lately seen more and more people refusing to wear a mask, Ploehn said.

"People have just figured it's over. We've had a lot of people coming in without masks on. In that respect, we're glad to see it's gone, because it's been kind of a headache to get people to put them on," Ploehn said.

Kevin Ploehn, director of aviation and transit at Billings Logan International Airport.

Still though, there were some who continued to wear a mask. Sarah Halphin said she only wore one on her flight back from California because she didn't do her makeup.

"I didn't do my makeup today. That's the real reason," Halphin said with a laugh.

Halphin said she's really indifferent about the change.

Sarah Halphin speaks with MTN News while waiting on a ride to Sidney after her flight was canceled.

"It was really weird seeing everyone without masks at first. But I feel like if they want to wear them, they can. If they don't, then they don't. I just feel like everyone is just so used to wearing masks now," Halphin said.

Ploehn said the language for new mask signs is still being crafted, but new ones will be hung up soon advising people that masks are optional.

RELATED: Multiple airlines allowing passengers to go maskless following judge's ruling