Face masks are expected to become optional at European airports and on flights within Europe as of Monday May 16, in what is described as “a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel”.
Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency said in a protocol published on Wednesday.
If either the departure or destination states require the wearing of face masks on public transport, aircraft operators should ask passengers and crew to comply, the agency 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,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a press release.
The guidance “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”.
ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said that while risks do remain, vaccines and other measures "have allowed our lives to return to normal".
Ms Ammon said rules for masks will continue to vary by airline beyond 16 May and passengers are advised to make themselves aware of the guidelines.
She also said that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally at FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask, which offer a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.
Many airlines, including Brussels Airlines, have already announced that they won’t enforce masking rules in flight.
The easing of restrictions is adding confidence to Europe’s biggest airlines, which are kicking off summer operations amid a surge in bookings.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
This article is published under license from Bloomberg News: the original article can be viewed here