Holiday boost as passengers are told facemasks will no longer be mandatory on flights and at airports in Europe

  • Passengers will not have to wear face masks in airports and flights from May 16
  • The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that the wearing of masks for holidaymakers are ‘no longer recommended’
  • Italy, France, Bulgaria and other European countries have been relaxing or ending many or all of their measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

Passengers have today been told that face masks will no longer be mandatory in airports and on flights in Europe from May 16 amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions in European countries.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), would mark ‘a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel’ for passengers and crews.

The agencies said the levels of vaccination, naturally acquired immunity and the lifting of Covid restrictions in many European countries were behind the decision to lift the mandatory mask recommendation, which has been in place since 2020. 

‘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,’ The EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said.

Italy, France, Bulgaria and other European countries have been relaxing or ending many or all of their measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

A flight attendant with a face mask welcomes passengers of a Boeing 747 of Lufthansa after landing at Frankfurt Airport in Frankfurt

The two EU agencies said the new guideline ‘takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries.’

But the agencies say that wearing a face mask is ‘still one of the best protections against the transmission of COVID-19.’ 

A number of U.S. airlines said they would no longer require masks in April, after a federal judge in Florida ruled that the U.S. administration’s mask mandate on public transport was unlawful.

ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said that even though wearing masks would not be mandatory ‘it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission.’

Ky said passengers should ‘behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them’.

He said that if a passenger is coughing and sneezing, they should ‘strongly consider’ wearing a facemask so that others seated nearby could be reassured.

Vulnerable passengers have been told they should continue to wear a face mask and people will be asked to observe social distancing in indoor areas. 

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), would mark ‘a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel’ for passengers and crews. File photo: A passenger with a face mask waits for his flight at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany

Rules for wearing masks are expected to vary after the mandatory requirement is lifted, with airlines told to encourage passengers to use masks on flights to or from destinations where wearing a mask on public transport is still required, the agencies said. 

The agencies also recommended that airlines keep systems for collecting passenger locator information on standby in case they are needed in future, for example if a new dangerous variant emerges.

Ammon said washing hands and social distancing should still be practiced, but airport operators are advised not to impose distancing requirements if these are likely to lead to a bottleneck. 

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