Compulsory Covid face mask rules scrapped for airports and flights from next week

Mandatory Covid face mask rules are being dropped by the EU for airports and flights in Europe from next week.

The decision, which comes into effect on Monday May 16, was announced by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) who hope the measure will ease the burden of increasing passenger numbers on the travel industry.

Although the EU has changed the rule, officials stressed that airlines may continue to insist that face masks be used, depending on Covid rules in different countries.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said: “From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport.

“For passengers and crew, this is a big step forward in the normalization of air travel. Passengers, however, should behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a coughing and sneezing passenger should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure people sitting nearby.

Guidance is also being introduced on the same date recommending airport operators to avoid imposing distance requirements “if these are very likely to lead to a bottleneck”.

However, masks may still need to be worn after May 16, depending on the country of departure or destination, as the new protocol will recommend that face mask measures are in line with national measures on the wearing of face masks in transport public.

Safer Airports

Andrea Ammon, director of the ECDC, said the vaccines had allowed “our lives to start getting back to normal”.

“Although mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to keep in mind that along with physical distancing and good hand hygiene, it is one of the best methods to reduce the transmission.

“The rules and requirements of the states of departure and destination must be respected and applied consistently, and tour operators must ensure that they inform passengers of all required measures in a timely manner.”

According to the guidelines, airlines should continue to promote the use of optional face masks for passengers, but passengers should “respect the decision of others to wear or not wear a mask”.

He said: “In their communication, operators should emphasize that people at high risk of severe Covid-19 are advised to wear an FFP2 respirator during flight for their own protection.”

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