Face masks will not be required on flights and in airports in the European Union, according to new COVID-19 guidelines.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control released new guidelines on Wednesday that relax the need to wear masks while flying in Europe. The new guidelines will go into effect on May 16.
“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,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky in a press statement. “For many passengers, and also aircrew members, there is a strong desire for masks to no longer be a mandatory part of air travel. We are now at the start of that process."
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"Passengers should continue to comply with the requirements of their airline and, where preventive measures are optional, make responsible decisions and respect the choice of other passengers," Ky said. "In particular, a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”
The new guidelines allow flights to adapt their mask requirements to the countries involved. If a government on either end of a flight requires masks, then airlines must adhere to that country's rules. The guidelines also ask airlines to encourage passengers to wear masks if masks are still required on public transportation at either the destination or departure point.
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While masks will no longer be compulsory, ECDC Director Andrea Ammon emphasized that masks are, "together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene," still "one of the best methods of reducing transmission."
A Florida judge overturned the United States's federal mask mandate for transportation on April 18.