The low-cost European airline easyJet says passengers will be forced to wear face masks onboard its flights as it prepares to restart a small number of flights from June 15. The carrier plans to fly from 21 European airports but initially, most flights will be domestic services as it resumes operations following COVID-19 lockdowns. easyJet said its face mask policy was just one of a slew of measures being introduced by the airline to protect passengers and crew.
But crucially, easyJet will not enforce social distancing by blocking the middle seat on its flights when flights do resume in mid-June. The airline had previously suggested it would block the middle seat when flights restarted following a near-complete grounding of its fleet to ensure social distancing in line with health advice about preventing the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
easyJet claims it is following official advice from the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) who published official guidelines for the safe restart of air travel on Wednesday. The guidelines back the idea of mandatory face mask-wearing and physical distancing in airports but says airlines don’t need to enforce onboard distancing measures when flights are busy.
The guidelines were, unsurprisingly, welcomed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) who warned airlines faced bankruptcy if onboard social distancing was enforced. While blocking the middle reduces the maximum passenger load to just 67 per cent, IATA claims most airlines need a passenger load of at least 75 per cent just to break even.
easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the new measures would remain in place “for as long as is needed”. Both crew and passengers will be expected to wear face masks and easyJet says spare masks and gloves will be kept onboard for the use of staff and customers.
Initially, all onboard service will be suspended to limit interaction between passengers and crew and planes will be disinfected at least daily. easyJet claims the disinfection process protects surfaces for at least 24-hours.
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.