German flag carrier Lufthansa will require all passengers to wear a face mask or other face-covering beginning May 4, explaining that the measure will replace other social distancing measures introduced onboard flights in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading the novel Coronavirus onboard a flight. Lufthansa has blocked the middle seat on short-haul flights since March 26.
Initially, the measure will only be mandatory onboard Lufthansa’s planes but the airline is asking passengers to wear face masks during their entire journey, including at check-in and while passing through airports. All 16 federal states in Germany have made wearing face masks compulsory in some shape or form.
Many states require members of the public to wear a mask on public transport, in shops or in other public places where social distancing is difficult. Fines for failing to cover up range from as little as €15 to €5,000 and is part of Germany’s strategy to ease lockdown restrictions imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Lufthansa will initially enforce the face mask rule until August 31, although this could be extended. Passengers will be expected to bring their own mask and Lufthansa recommends a reusable fabric mask or “simple disposable masks or scarves”.
The new rules follow a similar requirement introduced by U.S.-based jetBlue several days ago, as well as a number of other airlines including Emirates and Alitalia. Both United Airlines and American Airlines say they will start handing out masks to passengers beginning in early May but mask-wearing will not be mandatory.
Flight attendants at jetBlue, American and United must wear face masks for the foreseeable future.
“In principle, infection on board remains very unlikely. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, no concrete cases of transmission on Lufthansa Group flights have become known,” the airline said in a statement.
“The current regulation of Lufthansa Group Airlines to keep the neighbouring seat free in Economy and Premium Economy Class will no longer apply, as wearing the mouth-nose cover provides adequate health protection,” the statement continued.
Airlines have struggled to meet social distancing rules but some have attempted to assuage fears by blocking the middle seat on flights. But some carriers, including the likes of Ryanair, have criticised the measure claiming it does little to protect passengers and would destroy their business model.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.