The wearing of face masks in airports and on European flights is “no longer recommended”, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said.
The move, announced by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and ECDC, is due to come into force on 16 May.
The EASA said it hope the decision would mark “a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel”.
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Both authorities have advised travellers that, despite the rule being lifted, face masks remain “one of the best protections” against COVID-19.
Vulnerable passengers have been told they should continue to wear a mask and people will be asked to observe social distancing in indoor areas.
However, airport operators have been advised not to impose any distancing measures if they are likely to lead to a bottleneck, ECDC director Andrea Ammon said.
Once the rule has been dropped by the EASA and the ECDC, individual airlines will continue to be able to implement their own requirements.
Airlines have been told to encourage passengers to use masks on flights to or from destinations where mandatory mask-wearing on public transport is still enforced.
They have also been advised to keep systems for collecting passenger locator information on standby in case they are needed in the future, for example if a “new variant of concern” emerges.
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“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,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said.
“It is a relief to all of us that we are finally reaching a stage in the pandemic where we can start to relax the health safety measures.”
Italy, France, Bulgaria and other European countries have been relaxing or ending many of their COVID measures and a number of US airlines have already dropped the face mask requirement.
What are the COVID rules for travel in the UK?
In the UK, passengers are advised to check with their travel provider on whether COVID-19 rules are in place.
The Department for Transport and the Department of Health state people should follow any coronavirus restrictions and guidance from their transport venue as well.
People are also no longer required to complete a UK passenger locator form before they travel or take a COVID test when leaving or entering the country.