GENEVA — IATA says it welcomes new guidance coming out of Europe that will see mask mandates lifted for airports and flights.
Earlier today the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) removed its recommendation that masks should be required in-flight.
IATA says the EASA’s updated Aviation Health Safety Protocol reflects the high levels of vaccination, natural immunity levels, and the removal of domestic restrictions in many European nations.
The updated guidance also acknowledges the need to move from an emergency situation to a more sustainable mode of managing COVID-19, says IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh.
“We welcome EASA’s recommendation to relax the mask mandate, which is another important step along the road back to normality for air passengers. Travellers can look forward to 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 Walsh.
Airlines in the U.S. are no longer required to enforce mask mandates for passengers and crew, in a move that took effect in April 2022.
Meanwhile Canada’s mask mandate remains.
Prime Minister Trudeau, when he was asked about Canada’s mask rule for air travel after the U.S. mandate was struck down, said, “When we have announcements to make, we will make them. But they will always be grounded in science.”
IATA notes that mandates are a challenge for airlines and passengers flying globally between destinations with different requirements.
“We believe that mask requirements on board aircraft should end when masks are no longer mandated in other parts of daily life, for example theatres, offices or on public transport. Although the European protocol comes into effect next week, there is no globally consistent approach to mask-wearing on board aircraft,” said Walsh.
He added: “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. And we ask that all travellers be respectful of other people’s decision to voluntarily wear masks even if it not a requirement.”