LONDON – The EU has updated its COVID mask mandate to make the masks not mandatory on flights anymore from Monday 16th of May.
This doesn’t mean that every country is lifting the mandate, however, as there are still countries left who will enforce this rule.
The new mandate
The EASA has announced that they have lifted the mask mandate, meaning that, unless another country has a different rule, it is not mandatory to wear a mask on the plane.
“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 in a statement.
“For passengers and aircrews, this is a big step forward in the normalization of air travel.”
Germany has, for example, not lifted the new rule.
“The mask requirement on airplanes continues to be in place for all domestic routes as well as on flights that take off or land in Germany,” health ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz said in an emailed statement.
IATA has welcomed the new rule stating that “the updated guidance also acknowledges the need to move from an emergency situation to a more sustainable mode of managing COVID-19”, they said on their website.
“We welcome EASA’s recommendation to relax the mask mandate, which is another important step along the road back to normality for air passengers.”
“Travelers can look forward to the freedom of choice on whether to wear a mask.”
“And they can travel with confidence knowing that many features of the aircraft cabin, such as high-frequency air exchange and high-efficiency filters, make it one of the safest indoor environments,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.
At the same time, IATA has also acknowledged that it’s more complex when put into an international context, especially since there are going to be some troubles.
“Although the European protocol comes into effect next week, there is no globally consistent approach to mask-wearing onboard aircraft.”
“Airlines must comply with the regulations applicable to the routes they are operating. The aircraft crew will know what rules apply and it is critical that passengers follow their instructions.”
While it is great that the EASA has lifted its mandate, it’s at the same time annoying for many airlines and passengers that they are going to be having a confusing time on which route they need to wear their masks.
The Dutch airline associations have pleaded to the government for a long time now that they want the mandate to be abolished.
The airlines – which include KLM, Transavia, and Corendon – even went as far as to stop caring whether a passenger is wearing one or not according to Luchtvaartnieuws.nl.
According to the same article, however, it is expected that the Dutch government will follow the EASA ruling and remove the mandate shortly.
Ryanair has also dropped its mask mandate on many flights, except of course to the countries where it is still mandatory, such as Germany, The Netherlands, and Spain.