EASA and ECDC lift mask-wearing requirements at airports and on board flights

The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) in conjunction with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have issued new guidelines relating to health safety measures for airline passengers in relation to the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

From May 16, it will no longer be mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask in airports or on board flights. “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,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel,” he added. However, the agencies are still keen to stress that wearing a mask and good hand hygiene are the two most effective means of limiting transmission of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, those passengers who are still classed as vulnerable should wear a mask for their own protection and the agencies have asked that other passengers respect the individual rights of fellow travellers.

Social distancing is still also being promoted, though airport staff are advised to adopt a discretionary approach to the matter and should avoid imposing distancing requirements if these may lead to a bottleneck in another location in the passenger journey, especially if they are not required to keep a safe distance at national or regional level in other similar settings. Additionally, the agencies have made it clear that rules for masks will continue to vary by airline beyond May 16.

For example, flights to or from a destination where mask-wearing is still required on public transport should continue to encourage mask wearing, according to their joint recommendations. “The rules and requirements of departure and destination States should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner. The importance of these measures should continue to be effectively communicated to passengers for their safety, and ECDC will continue to work with our colleagues at EASA to regularly assess and amend the recommendations as necessary,” said ECDC Director Andrea Ammon.

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