As the pandemic eases in Europe, EU-wide recommendations on wearing masks for air travel will be rescinded beginning next week, according to the bloc’s aviation safety body.

According to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), masks are no longer considered necessary for all flights and airports under new recommendations created in collaboration with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

National regulators and airlines will still be able to require passengers and employees to cover their faces and noses, according to the report.

“Face masks will no longer be required in all circumstances of air travel as of next week,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky in a statement. “This largely aligns with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transportation.”

“This is a significant step forward in the normalization of air travel for passengers and crews.”

Despite the new instructions, Germany, the EU’s most populous country and largest economy, said it had no intentions to repeal the flight mask rule.
In an emailed statement, health ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz said, “The mask requirement on airplanes remains to be in effect for all domestic routes as well as on flights that take off or land in Germany.”

“Rules for masks in particular will continue to differ per airline beyond that date,” the EASA said after Monday.

“Flights to or from a destination where mask wearing is still compulsory on public transportation should encourage mask wearing,” it said.

It went on to say that vulnerable passengers with compromised health “should continue to use a face mask regardless of the rules.”

Passengers should also respect social separation at the airport, according to the EASA, although operators should take a “pragmatic approach,” avoiding steps that “lead to a bottleneck in another point in the passenger route.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), based in Geneva, praised the new EU guidance but admitted that the picture was more complicated in a global setting.

“Although the European regulation takes effect next week, there is no globally consistent approach to mask-wearing on board airplanes,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh said in a statement.

“Airlines must adhere to the regulations that govern the routes they operate.” The airplane crew will be aware of the rules that apply, and passengers must follow their instructions.”

He went on to say that the IATA requested all passengers to “respect other people’s decision to wear masks voluntarily even if it is not a requirement.”

Despite rising fuel prices, the crisis in Ukraine, and inflation, the European aviation sector predicts a recovery to pre-pandemic traffic levels this summer.

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