Low-cost carrier Norwegian has become the latest airline to lift its inflight face mask mandate on all flights. The Oslo-based carrier said in a statement on Friday that it was the first time since June 2020 that passengers could choose not to wear a face mask onboard any of its flights, regardless of the destination.
Although Norwegian was one of the very first airlines in the world to ease face mask rules last Autumn on domestic and Scandinavian routes, the airline kept the mask mandate in place for flights to other European destinations.
Even then, the end of mandatory face mask rules was short-lived when the Omicron wave forced a rethink and the reintroduction of pandemic measures in Norway and across Europe.
As the Omicron wave started to ebb, Norwegian once again lifted its mask mandate on regional routes in February but kept the policy in place for all other flights throughout Europe. Only now, will Norwegian make masking optional on all flights.
A spokesperson for the airline said the decision came on the back of “revised guidance across Europe”. Officially, however, the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) recommends that passengers and crew wear a face mask on all flights.
“As countries reduce or completely remove travel restrictions, thanks to extensive vaccination programmes, passengers will now be able to choose if they wish to wear a face mask or not,” a spokesperson for Norwegian noted.
The airline believes lifting the mandate will lead to an increase in travel demand as had been seen on regional routes when the rule was eased. Norway topped the Bloomberg COVID-19 resilience survey in March for its loose pandemic restrictions, lack of travel curbs and the high number of vaccinated travel lanes it had with other countries.
Norwegian joins British low-cost airline Jet2 in completely eliminating the need to wear a face mask on all of its flights. The rules at other airlines that have so far eased face mask rules are slightly more complicated, however.
British Airways, easyJet and SWISS have eased face mask rules on flights to and from destinations where it is clear that a mandate cannot be enforced. For example, a flight from England to Switzerland would not require a face mask because public transit face mask mandates have been lifted in both countries.
However, a flight from England or Switzerland to Germany and vice versa would require a face mask because Germany still has a mask mandate in force.
The British arm of TUI Airways has eliminated the need to wear a face mask on most flights with the exception of the United States where the federal face mask mandate takes precedent.
Officially, Dutch flag carrier KLM has not lifted its mask mandate because the Netherlands still requires airline passengers to wear a face mask but the carrier has told its crew to no longer enforce the mandate.
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.