From Dr. William Schaffner's point of view, it makes sense to lift both the masking and pre-travel testing measures now.
"I mean if there's a reason not to do it, let's hear it," said Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Schaffner pointed out that the CDC has changed the metrics that inform its masking recommendations within the United States, and some medical professionals see a disconnect when it comes to maintaining stricter standards for travel.
The airlines' argument for lifting the mask mandate mirrors that point.
"It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do," their letter to the president reads.
Testing international arrivals doesn't make much sense to Schaffner either.
"I've been bemused about that for a long time because we've got plenty of Covid here! It's not as though we're trying to keep Covid out," Schaffner said, chuckling. "It's here already."
"I've always thought that this was a little like telling someone not to pour a bucket of water into your swimming pool."
But he emphasized that people may choose to wear masks and their choices should be respected.
He and his wife are caring for an extended family member who is receiving chemotherapy, and they continue to wear masks and be very cautious to protect that person.
"I think the larger world, I hope, has some understanding of that and not only tolerates it but supports it," Schaffner said.
An aerosol expert weighs in
Linsey Marr, an expert in transmission of infectious disease via aerosols, said via email that dropping the mask mandate is reasonable with the caveat that it makes sense "as long as cases remain low."
"There is a smaller chance that someone who is infected will be on the plane. And we know that planes have excellent ventilation and filtration, which help reduce the risk of transmission on a plane," said Marr, who is a professor at Virginia Tech.
Those who want more protection can still choose to wear a high-quality mask on planes, which Marr said she intends to do during future surges and during cold and flu season. And bringing mandates back should be on the table.
"The virus has been very unpredictable, and we should be prepared to bring back a mask mandate if cases rise again or a new variant of concern emerges."
Continue to exercise caution and care
Dr. Richard Dawood, a London-based travel health specialist, has a more tentative view of lifting testing and mask requirements.
The United Kingdom, where cases crept up recently because of the BA.2 subvariant, has already dropped vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements for travelers, and several air carriers have recently announced an end to mask rules -- at least for destinations that don't have their own mask mandates.
If it were up to him, he probably wouldn't lift Covid precautions for travel just yet.
"If you are traveling long haul, it's quite reassuring to be on a flight where you know people have had a pre-departure test," Dawood said.
Traveling right now should be approached with some caution and care, he said. Even if your risk of getting critically ill and landing in the hospital while you're away is slim, getting sick could significantly disrupt your trip.
"I think I shall certainly continue using a mask for my own protection, especially if I'm going long haul."