An airline lobby group that represents nearly 300 airlines around the world has called for a return to ‘normality’ when flying and is demanding that face mask mandates be ditched for air passengers.
In the early phases of the pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) supported mandatory mask-wearing as a way to skip social distancing requirements and, until recently, urged compulsory masking as an alternative to travel bans and other COVID-related restrictions.
But the Montreal-based lobby group (where masking is still required in most indoor public settings including public transport) now believes governments should drop mask mandates so that the airline industry can get back to normal.
“Aircraft have features that reduce the transmission of viruses,” the lobby group says, pointing out that most modern passenger jets are fitted with hospital-grade air filters that remove viruses from the cabin air every few minutes.
“It is time to review mask mandates. Let’s restore normality for air travel,” the organisation said in a recent video.
Although the federal mask mandate in the United States was recently struck down, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes masking is still required on airplanes and has asked the Department of Justice to appeal the court ruling.
That stance stands in contrast to rules in many other parts of the U.S. where indoor masking, including on public transport, has been dropped.
A similar situation has developed in the Netherlands where airports and airplane cabins have been singled out as compulsory masking zones whereas mask rules have been lifted in all other environments.
In many other cases, mask mandates are being ditched for crowded indoor spaces but are being maintained on public transport. Although some passengers still support masking, the differing rules are starting to cause confusion and consternation amongst air travellers.
“It is not logical to expect most people to obey with mask rules on board when they are no longer expected to in other situations,” IATA says. “Air travel should not become an exceptional case: health rules on-board should reflect the general state of rules in society at large.”
“If the health authorities deem it no longer necessary to wear masks indoors or on public transport, then air travel should be treated the same.”
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.