Dutch flag airliner KLM Royal and its competitors in the Netherlands have decided to withdraw the mask mandate for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. This will mean passengers on board are no longer required to wear masks as the Netherlands lifted most COVID-19 related restrictions on March 23. This announcement by KLM comes as several airlines in Europe and the UK have started relaxing the mask rule with the infection rates of the virus waning substantially. Among them are Jet2, Ryanair, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic which have dropped their compulsory mask rule for passengers.
Similarly, American airliners are keen to put an end to the universal mask rule. A coalition of airlines led by United, Delta, and American airlines earlier last week had written to President Joe Biden to withdraw the federal order on the issue. They said, “Our industry has leaned into science at every turn. At the outset, we voluntarily implemented policies and procedures — mandating face coverings; requiring passenger health acknowledgments and contact tracing information, and enhancing cleaning protocols – to form a multi-layered approach to mitigate risk and prioritize the wellbeing of passengers and employees.”
It added, “However, much has changed since these measures were imposed and they no longer make sense in the current public health context. The persistent and steady decline of hospitalization and death rates are the most compelling indicators that our country is well protected against severe disease COVID-19.”
The White House is yet to react to the issue. Before this, the US Travel Association and one union of Southwest Airlines flight staff had also made similar requests.
Meanwhile, industry analysts believe that Canadian airlines may precede US counterparts in dropping this regulation in line with European carriers. In most other parts of the world, mask mandates by aircraft carriers remain with China introducing fresh restrictions in light of a fresh outbreak.