The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced on Wednesday the lifting from Monday of the obligation to wear a mask at airports and on board planes in the EU, decreed following the COVID pandemic -19.
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“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory for air travel,” EASA Director General Patrick Ky said in a statement. This decision “is a big step forward in the standardization of air transport”.
Despite the EASA's decision, Germany, the EU's largest economy and most populous country, has indicated that it has no intention of lifting the obligation to wear a mask on its planes.
Its airline Lufthansa and its Frankfurt airport are the first in Europe in their category.
“The mask obligation on airplanes remains in place for all domestic flights as well as for flights taking off and landing in Germany,” according to a statement from German Health Ministry spokesperson Hanno Kautz.
EASA explained that a face mask remains one of the best protections against the transmission of COVID-19, especially for vulnerable people, and that the rules regarding masks in particular “will continue to vary between airlines. beyond that date" of next Monday.
For example, “mask wearing should remain encouraged on flights to or from a destination where mask wearing is still required on public transport,” according to the agency.
In general, passengers must “behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them”, underlines the EASA: in short, a passenger “who coughs and sneezes should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure people sitting nearby.
The main global association of airlines, Iata, has welcomed the new EASA protocol, which amounts to giving travelers “the freedom to choose whether or not to wear a mask”, according to Willie Walsh, its director general.
Passengers “can travel with confidence knowing that many features of the aircraft cabin, such as high-frequency air exchange and high-efficiency filters, make it one of the most safe,” he said.
This relaxation of health protection rules comes as Europeans' appetite for travel, curbed during two years of the pandemic, is gaining momentum.
For the summer, the European air traffic monitoring body Eurocontrol forecasts up to 95% of the 2019 level, with bookings going well despite the war in Ukraine, the oil shock and inflation.