Flights: Will I need to wear a mask to fly?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says wearing a mask will not protect you from coronavirus if you don’t combine it with other measures and hand hygiene. WHO recommends wearing a mask if you are coughing or sneezing, or taking care of a person with COVID-19 symptoms. There is no evidence that wearing a mask protects you if you aren’t sick. However, some airlines have made it mandatory to wear a face mask when travelling, thanks to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s new guidelines. reveals which airlines have put in place this rule.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency published 28 pages of guidelines regarding flying.

The UK had no involvement in putting together the policy, since the Brexit ‘leave’ date was on January 31.

However, the UK will remain a member of the EU until the end of 2020, so falls subject to these rules.

British airlines and airports will most likely adopt these guidelines, which plan out how each step of the air travel process should be done.

According to EASA’s rules, those who have been in contact with someone infected with coronavirus should not turn up to the airport at all.

There will be no more waving off your loved ones, with the new rules banning anybody who is not travelling or working in the airport from coming inside.

There will be regular reminders broadcasted through the airports, warning passengers and staff to wash their hands and social distance.

There will be no duty free, either.

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Will I need to wear a mask to fly?

EASA recommends wearing a mask while travelling.

The guideline document says: “The wearing of medical face masks should be recommended for all passengers and persons within the airport and aircraft, from the moment they enter the terminal building at the departure airport until they exit the terminal building at the destination airport.

“Exemption to the obligation to wear face masks can be made for instances where otherwise specified, such as during security checks or border control.

“Children below 6 years old and people having a medical reason for not wearing face masks can also be exempted.”

In light of these guidelines, some major airlines are changing their own rules on masks.

This includes:
• Air France
• Alitalia
• Brussels Airlines
• Eurowings
• Finnair
• Iberia
• Lufthansa
• Ryanair
• EasyJet

You will need to wear a mask if you fly with any of the above airlines.

The EASA guidelines say passengers should replace their masks every four hours.

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The document says: “Passengers should be reminded that typically, face masks should be replaced after being worn for 4 hours, if not advised otherwise by the mask manufacturer, or when becoming wet or soiled, and that they should ensure a sufficient supply of masks adequate for the entire duration of their journey.”

Not sure how to dispose of your mask? There’s plenty of advice on that, and it is a key part of beating the virus.

The document says: “Passengers should be also instructed on the procedures for safe disposal of used face masks; no-touch bins should be available at the airport and single-use waste bags should be available onboard and upon disembarking to dispose of used masks.

“Airport operators and aeroplane operators should include information regarding the proper use and removal of masks and the proper way to dispose of used masks in their health safety promotion material.

“Additionally, airport operators should also consider making possible the acquisition of masks at airports(e.g. through vending machines) in case passengers have no access to face masks beforehand.

“The use of face masks should be considered only as a complementary measure and not as a replacement for established preventive measures, such as physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene.”

What are the Government rules on wearing a mask?

The Government for England says:
• People should aim to wear face coverings on public transport and in some shops
• Also in other “enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet”
• “Social distancing” means staying more than two metres away from someone
• Face coverings should be worn and not surgical masks or respirators which should be left for healthcare staff and other workers who need them

People don’t need to wear face masks or coverings when they are:
• Outdoors or while exercising
• In schools
• In workplaces such as offices and shops
• Children under two or primary aged children who cannot use them without assistance
• Experiencing problems breathing while wearing a face covering

Are masks beneficial?

Medical advice on wearing a face mask is sceptical.

Public Health England isn’t sure about the public using face masks, saying: “Face masks play a very important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of these clinical settings.”

WHO warns: “The wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risk.”

According to WHO, wearing a mask can create a “false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene.”

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