The International Air Transport Association (IATA) – which represents 290 airlines in 117 countries comprising around 83% of global air traffic – has called for the end of face mask requirements for air travel. Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, said:
The past few weeks have seen a dramatic shift by many governments around the world to ease or remove COVID-19-related travel restrictions and requirements as the disease enters its endemic phase. It’s vital that this process continue and even accelerate, to more quickly restore damaged global supply chains and enable people to resume their lives. One step to encourage a return to normality is to remove mask mandates for air travel. It makes no sense to continue to require masks on aeroplanes when they are no longer being required in shopping malls, theatres or offices. Aircraft are equipped with highly sophisticated hospital quality filtration systems and have much higher air flow and air exchange rates than most other indoor environments where mask mandates already have been removed.
Is this call directed to governments or airlines? As far as I am aware, most remaining mask mandates for air travel are imposed by airlines themselves, not by external authorities. So perhaps Mr. Walsh is appealing primarily to his own members here to help themselves by removing their remaining measures and returning things to normal. Presumably the myth still prevails in many parts of the industry that masks instil confidence in customers rather than fear and irritation. Jet2 recently announced the end of masking on its flights. Let’s hope other airlines heed Mr. Walsh’s call and follow suit, and that before long travel can get back to what it was like in 2019, without any Covid-related measures at all.