Iata chief calls for removal of mask mandates on flights

Iata director general Willie Walsh has called for the removal of requirements to wear face masks on flights.

The demand came as the airline trade body revealed that recovery in domestic and international air travel slowed at the start of the new year due to travel restrictions imposed following the emergence of Omicron last November.

Total demand grew 82.3% year-on-year in January but was down 4.9% on the previous month, according to Iata.

Walsh said: “One step to encourage a return to normality is to remove mask mandates for air travel.

“It makes no sense to continue to require masks on airplanes when they are no longer being required in shopping malls, theatres or offices.

“Aircraft are equipped with highly sophisticated hospital quality filtration systems and have much higher air flow and air exchange rates than most other indoor environments where mask mandates already have been removed.”

Jet2 last week became the first major airline to drop the rule for passengers to wear face masks on its flights.

Reviewing airlines’ January performance, Walsh said: “The recovery in air travel continued in January, despite hitting a speed bump called Omicron.

“Strengthened border controls did not stop the spread of the variant. But where population immunity was strong, the public health systems were not overwhelmed.

“Many governments are now adjusting Covid-19 polices to align with those for other endemic viruses.

“This includes lifting travel restrictions that have had such a devastating impact on lives, economies and the freedom to travel.

“The past few weeks have seen a dramatic shift by many governments around the world to ease or remove Covid-19-related travel restrictions and requirements as the disease enters its endemic phase.

“It’s vital that this process continue and even accelerate, to more quickly restore damaged global supply chains and enable people to resume their lives.”

The Iata statists show that international air travel rose 165.6% year-on-year but fell by 2.2% month-on-month between December 2021 and January 2022 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Domestic air travel was up 41.5% over January 2021 but fell 7.2% compared to December.

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