Face mask restrictions for aviation passengers should be scrapped, according to an airline lobby group that represents nearly 300 airlines around the world.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) supported obligatory mask-wearing in the early stages of the pandemic as a way to avoid social distancing requirements and, until recently, advocated for mandatory masking as an alternative to travel bans and other COVID-related restrictions.
However, the Montreal-based advocacy group now argues that governments should repeal mask laws so that the airline business can return to normal. Masking is still mandatory in most indoor public venues, including public transportation.
“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 organization said in a recent video.
Despite the fact that the federal mask rule was recently struck down in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes masking is still essential on planes and has requested the Department of Justice to appeal the court order.
This approach contrasts with rules in many other parts of the United States, where indoor masking, especially on public transportation, has been abolished.
In the Netherlands, a similar situation has developed, where airports and airline cabins have been designated as mandatory masking zones while masking laws have been relaxed in all other contexts.
Mask restrictions are being phased out in many other circumstances for crowded indoor settings, but they are still enforced on public transportation. Although some passengers continue to favor masks, the various laws are causing confusion and worry among flight passengers.
“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.”