The EU is set to match the U.S. in dropping its facemask mandate.
The EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) made the announcement on Tuesday, dropping the recommendation of mandatory mask-wearing in airports and on board flights starting on May 16, 2022.
While the agencies said that wearing a mask “is still one of the best protections against the transmission of COVID-19,” it will no longer push for the practice to be a requirement during travel.
“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,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.
“For passengers and aircrews, this is a big step forward in the normalization 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.”
Rules for masks, in particular, will continue to vary by airline beyond that date because of other entry rules, including flights to a destination outside of the EU where mask-wearing is still required.
The move by the EU matches the recent change by the U.S. last month when its requirement to wear masks in airports and on flights was dropped after a ruling from a federal judge. The travel industry in the U.S. has primarily seen the extension of the mask mandate, along with the continued inbound testing rules, as a major drag on its recovery. The U.S. Travel Association and the Association of American Travel Advisors (ASTA) have both continued to push for both of those rules to be lifted.
In other countries, including Canada, masking is still required for the entire duration of a flight arriving at or leaving from a local airport.