Europe to drop mandatory mask rule for air travel next week
Passengers will still have to comply with airline policy, which may vary.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have recommended ending the rule that states that masks must be worn while travelling on a plane.
The rule had been in effect throughout the entirety of the pandemic, but come 16 May, it will no longer apply. However, passengers will still have to comply with the policy of the airline they are travelling on.
The EASA's Executive Director Patrick Ky gave the updated recommendations in a statement.
Mr 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 and safety measures.
"For many passengers, and also aircrew members, there is a strong desire for masks to no longer be a mandatory part of air travel. We are now at the start of that process.
"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."
He then said that passengers who have cold-like symptoms - sneezing, coughing etc. - should "strongly consider" wearing a mask still.
Andrea Ammon, who is the director of the ECDC, pointed to the progress that has been made in controlling the virus.
She said: "While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission.
"The rules and requirements of departure and destination States should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner."
The recommendations state that vulnerable passengers should "continue to wear a face masks regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask."