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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased
Health measures are set to be eased for air travel in Europe. (Photo: Eric Piermont / AFP)

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“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 in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“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. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

Member comments

  1. Starting to go out without covering my face with a mask and increasingly more and more people are leaving off the mask.

  2. I am just mow not wearing the mask when going out and increasingly more and more people are keeping them off.

  3. I am now not wearing the mask when going out and increasingly more and more people are not wearing them.

  4. I am not covering my face when I go out and increasingly mire and more people are doing the same.

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BREAKING

UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks again

Negotiations between the SAS and SPF continued into the night and will be postponed again until noon on Monday in hopes of averting strike action.

UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks again

Scandinavian airline SAS and the Swedish pilot union Swedish Air Line Pilots Association (SPF) have been negotiating for weeks, with the most recent deadline extended to 11am on Saturday morning.

Now the wage talks have been postponed again, until midday on Monday.

“We need to sleep, no one has slept with us for a very long time,” SAS’s chief negotiator Marianne Hernæs said.

Neither the pilot unions, SAS nor the mediators have reavealed how close the parties are or in what parts they agree. However, they all agree that they need to sleep.

“We’ll meet again tomorrow. Now I am going home and sleeping, I have not slept for many hours,” said Keld Bækkelund Hansen, leader of the trade union Dansk Metal.

On June 9, the pilot unions of Sweden, Norway and Denmark submitted their notice to strike on June 29th, with the strike then postponed until July 1st, then again until July 2nd, and now until Monday the 4th.

If negotiations do not succeed, 900 pilots could go on strike at midnight.

The SAS management and SPF have been in intensive negotiations for several weeks on a new collective agreement.

The Swedish pilot union believes that SAS is circumventing the right to re-employment by using staff from two subsidiaries as temporary labourers. 

Some 560 pilots who were laid off during the pandemic have not been re-employed.

After negotiations continued all night last night, the situation remains unclear but is progressing, according to the chief negotiator.

“We regret this situation we are in but we actually try everything we can,” says Marianne Hernæs.

Harsh criticism

On Friday, Norwegian put heavy pressure on SAS when the Norwegian pilot union threatened to drive the company into bankruptcy.

The Swedish pilot union also sharply criticized SAS’s negotiating position on Friday.

“An employer who tries to organize away from employer responsibility and agreements entered into by starting a letterbox company has nothing to do with the Swedish labor market and lacks justification for existence”, Martin Lindgren, chairman of the SAS section at the Swedish Pilot Association, said in a written comment to TT.

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