•   Monday, 16 May, 2022
Covid mask rules relaxed for EU air travel

Covid mask rules relaxed for EU air travel

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Face masks will no longer have to be worn on flights and in airports in EU countries from next Monday, according to new official guidance.

The move is in line with changing Covid policies on public transport across Europe, said the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Some US airlines did the same in April after a federal judge threw out the government's mask mandate.

But EASA said rules for masks "will continue to vary by airline".

"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.

"It is a relief to all of us that we are finally reaching a stage in the pandemic where we can start to relax the health safety measures," he added.

'Reduce transmission'

But the new guidance came with some cautionary advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

ECDC director Andrea Ammon said that although the wearing of masks would no longer be compulsory, it was important to remember that "together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene, it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission".

Both EU agencies said that on flights arriving at or departing from places where masks still had to be worn on public transport, airlines should encourage passengers to wear them.

"Further, as of 16 May 2022, aircraft operators, during their pre-flight communications as well as during the flight, should continue to encourage their passengers and crew members to wear face masks during the flight as well as in the airport, even when wearing a face mask is not required," the ECDC said.

Some airlines flying to and from the UK have already removed mask requirements where destinations don't require it.

Ryanair said it would drop mandatory face masks on EU flights from next Monday, in line with the new EASA guidance.

In March, the budget airline EasyJet said where masks are no longer legally required at both ends of the route, mask wearing would be a personal choice.

An EasyJet spokesperson said: "We welcome this guidance from EASA and the ECDC and continue to urge European governments to have a co-ordinated approach in removing mask requirements on board aircraft, to make it easy and clear for customers."

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