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Updated: Face masks ‘no longer recommended’ on European flights

The mandatory wearing of face masks is “no longer recommended” on European flights and in airports, according to EU authorities.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have updated their health safety measures for air travel, and said face masks should no longer be required in airports or on flights.

The new recommendation will come into force on May 16, but passengers are warned the rules may vary between airlines so they should still bring a face covering.

EASA executive director Patrick Ky 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.

“Passengers should continue to comply with the requirements of their airline and, where preventative measures are optional, make responsible decisions and respect the choice of other passengers.”

Andrea Ammon, ECDC director, said: “While mandatory mask wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, 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.”

Aviation body Iata has welcomed the new guidance. Director general Willie Walsh said: “We welcome EASA’s recommendation to relax the mask mandate, which is another important step along the road to normality for air passengers.”

Following the announcement, Ryanair announced it will drop the mandatory face mask requirement on airplanes and in airports from May 16, with the exception of flights to and from countries where they are still required to be worn on public transport.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of airports body ACI Europe said: “Over the past two years, the EASA-ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol has been essential to ensure risk-based and uniform Covid-19 protective measures for air travel across Europe.

“This remains the case with today’s update, with guidelines that continue to be effective, proportionate, and practical – and which reflect the fact that an increasing number of states no longer mandate wearing face masks nor social distancing for travel”.

He added: “This new guidance marks another step in the safe recovery of European aviation and tourism, just as demand is fast increasing and prospects for the summer look very positive.

“It will make the travel experience much more pleasant and should also help to ease operations – while keeping passengers and staff safe.

 

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