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Face masks no longer mandatory on EU flights from next week

The new recommendations are set to come into effect from 16 May.

Passengers with their suitcases and wearing face masks in Dublin Airport in January.
Passengers with their suitcases and wearing face masks in Dublin Airport in January.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

FACE MASKS WILL no longer be mandatory on flights in Europe from next week, EU authorities have said.

In an update to the health and safety measures for air travel, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said masks will no longer be required in airports or on board flights.

It said it was “dropping the recommendation for mandatory wearing of medical masks in airports and on board a flight, while noting that a face mask is still one of the best protections against the transmission of Covid-19″. 

The new recommendations are set to come into effect from 16 May. 

The agencies said the update takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries. 

“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.

“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.”  

The statement said the rules for masks will continue to vary by airline beyond 16 May.

It said flights to or from a destination where mask-wearing is still required on public transport should continue to encourage mask wearing, according to the recommendations.

It also said 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.

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Passengers are also encouraged to observe distancing measures in indoor areas, including at the airport, wherever possible. But airport operators should adopt a pragmatic approach to this. 

The statement added that while many countries no longer use passenger locator forms, airlines should keep their data collection systems on standby so they could make them available to public health authorities if needed, such as if a new variant emerged. 

Last week, the European Parliament voted to extend the EU Digital Covid Certificate, paving the way for the system to be in place for a further year. 

The vote gives the green light for EU member states to hold discussions as part of the EU Council to decide if the system should go on past the current end date of 30 June. 

About the author:

Jane Moore

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