EU-wide guidelines on requiring masks for air travel will be lifted from next week, the bloc’s aviation safety agency announced on Wednesday, as the pandemic eases in Europe.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has said that under new guidelines developed with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), masks are no longer considered essential for all flights and airports.
Nonetheless, national regulators and airlines will still have the ability to require passengers and staff to cover their faces and noses, he noted.
“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory on air travel in any case, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport. “, EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement.
“For passengers and air crew, this is a big step forward in the standardization of air travel.”
Despite the new guidelines, Germany, as the EU’s most populous country and largest economy, has said it has no plans to lift the mask mandate for flights.
“The mask requirement on airplanes continues to be in place for all domestic routes as well as on flights taking off or landing in Germany,” health ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz said in a statement. press release sent by e-mail.
– “No globally coherent approach” –
EASA said after Monday that “rules regarding masks in particular will continue to vary between airlines beyond this date.”
He said that “flights to or from a destination where mask-wearing is still required on public transport should continue to encourage mask-wearing”.
Vulnerable passengers whose health is compromised “should continue to wear a face covering regardless of the rules”, he added.
EASA said passengers were also encouraged to observe social distancing at the airport, but that operators should adopt a “pragmatic approach”, i.e. avoid measures which “would lead to a bottleneck of ‘throttling at another point of the passenger journey’.
The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the EU’s new guidance, but acknowledged that the situation was more complex in an international context.
“Although the European protocol comes into force next week, there is no overall consistent approach for wearing a mask on board aircraft,” said Willie Walsh, director general of IATA, in a press release. .
“Airlines must comply with the regulations applicable to the routes they operate. Aircraft crew will know which rules apply and it is essential that passengers follow their instructions.”
He added that IATA has asked all passengers to “respect the decision of others to voluntarily wear masks even though it is not a requirement”.
The European aviation sector has predicted a return to near-pandemic traffic levels this summer despite soaring fuel prices, the war in Ukraine and inflation.