Masks on planes and in airports no longer mandatory in Europe

Following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions across the EU, the European Union will no longer need masks to be used at airports and on planes beginning next week.

Following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions across the EU, the European Union will no longer need masks to be used at airports and on planes beginning next week.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency expressed hope that the decision, reached in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would represent “a significant step forward in the normalisation of air travel” for passengers and crews.

In a joint statement, the two organisations said the revised guidance “takes account of recent developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, as well as the associated easing of restrictions in a rising number of European nations.”

When is it appropriate to wear a face mask on a plane?

“However, passengers should act responsibly and respect the choices of others,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky stated.

“A passenger coughing or sneezing should strongly consider using a face mask for the comfort of those seated nearby.”

While the new recommendations go into effect on May 16, mask rules may vary by airline after that date if they fly to or from countries with different restrictions.

Washing hands and social distance should still be practised, according to Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, but airport operators should not impose distancing measures if they are likely to cause a bottleneck.

While many nations no longer require passengers to submit data through a passenger locator form, the agencies also recommended that airlines keep their data gathering systems on standby in case public health authorities want it.

For instance, in the case of a novel variation of concern that was discovered to be possibly more harmful.

Responses to the new guidelines

The revised guidelines were praised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“Travelers can expect the flexibility to choose whether or not to wear a mask,” stated IATA Director General Willie Walsh.

“They can travel with confidence,” he noted, “since numerous aspects of the aircraft cabin, such as high-frequency air exchange and high-efficiency filters, make it one of the safest indoor settings.”

The Airports Council International had a similar sentiment (ACI).

“This new guidance signals another step forward in the safe recovery of European aviation and tourism, at a time when demand is rapidly increasing and summer prospects appear very promising,” stated Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE.

“It will make travel considerably more comfortable and should also assist to ease operations – while keeping passengers and workers safe,” he concluded.

National regulators and airlines will still be able to insist that passengers and employees conceal their faces and noses.

Medical masks will continue to be required for all passengers over the age of 6 on flights to, from, or within Germany, according to the German Health Ministry, albeit they can be removed during meals.

What will summer travel look like?

The development is good news for the European aviation industry, which is still attempting to recover from the pandemic.

The number of nations that have eliminated all COVID-related entrance restrictions is increasing, and many are also abandoning domestic mask and social distancing regulations.

The French government declared on Wednesday that masks will no longer be required on public transportation as of May 16.

In indoor places, French health minister Olivier Véran stated that wearing a mask is still “advised.”

There have also been complaints of airport delays and long lines around Europe as the industry attempts to keep up with rising demand.