The European Union’s mask mandate for airliners and airports will be dropped as of May 16, officials said Wednesday.
The new guideline “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,” the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a joint statement Wednesday.
The groups said they hoped the decision would be “a big step forward in the normalization of air travel” for passengers and crews.
“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. “And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”
Despite the EU’s move, masking rules may still vary by airline if regulations are different in the locations they fly to or from.
Washing hands and social distancing should still be practiced, but airports should not impose distancing requirements if they are likely to cause bottlenecks, according to ECDC director Andrea Ammon.
“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal,” Ammon said in the statement.
Officials also said that airlines should keep systems for collecting passenger locator information on standby in case of future need, such as if a new dangerous coronavirus variant appears, the Associated Press reported.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on masks and travel.
SOURCES: EASA/ECDC, statement, May 11, 2022; Associated Press