European Union Drops Airline Mask Rules

Face masks on planes are about to become a lot less common in Europe.

European Union drops air travel mask guidance

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have issued an update when it comes to the wearing of face masks on flights. As of May 16, 2022, the European Union is dropping its recommendation for airlines to require passengers to wear face masks.

It’s worth noting that the European Union only makes recommendations, and countries are still allowed to make their own rules. However, very broadly the European Union recommendations are typically followed. As it’s described, this decision is based on the high levels of vaccination and natural immunity in Europe, accompanied by the growing number of European countries lifting restrictions.

It’s acknowledged that masks will still likely be required to some destinations, including those where they’re required for public transport. Furthermore, it’s stated that masks still provide some of the best protection against the transmission of COVID-19, and those who are vulnerable or concerned should continue to wear masks that offer a high level of protection.

As the Executive Director of the EASA, Patrick Ky, describes this development:

“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. 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.”  

This update comes just weeks after the federal transportation mask mandate ended in the United States due to the ruling of a Florida judge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked the Department of Justice to challenge this ruling, so we’ll see what comes of this.

The European Union is dropping its mask recommendation for air travel

Will airlines follow the EU’s recommendations?

As mentioned above, the European Union is only changing its recommendations, and it’s up to individual countries to then decide on their own rules. The current state of things is pretty complicated:

  • We’ve seen some countries in the European Union already lift face mask requirements for public transportation, and in turn, we’ve seen several European Union airlines lift face mask requirements
  • We’ve seen some European Union countries not lift face mask requirements for airlines, but nonetheless airlines have decided to no longer enforce the rules
  • The current state of things is pretty complicated, because whether or not a mask is required is based on a combination of the airline policy, as well as the policies of the countries you’re traveling to & from
  • Then you have some countries that require masks on planes, but not at the airport

Personally I think we’ll see a majority of airlines in the European Union follow this updated guidance. I’m sure it won’t be the case across the board, but many countries are increasingly trying to encourage a “return to normal,” and this is a major part of that. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds next week.

Germany requires masks on planes, but not at airports

Bottom line

The European Union is changing its recommendations around the wearing of face masks on planes. As of May 16, it’s no longer recommended that countries and airlines require air travelers to wear masks. Of course it’s up to individual countries and airlines to decide on their own policies, but I’d expect this guidance to be largely followed.

Do you think most EU countries will lift face mask requirements for air travel with this update?

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