IATA is emphasizing the need for passengers to comply with the recommendation following recent reports of travelers refusing to wear a face covering during a flight. While this is confined to a very small number of individuals, some on-board incidents have resulted in diversions to offload these passengers.
“This is a call for common sense and taking responsibility,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The vast majority of travelers understand the importance of face covering both for themselves and for their fellow passengers, and airlines appreciate this collective effort. But a small minority create problems. Safety is at the core of aviation, and compliance with crew safety instructions is the law. Failure to comply can jeopardize a flight’s safety, disrupt the travel experience of other passengers and impact the work environment for crew.”
Face covering forms part of a multi-layered approach in the ICAO Take-off guidance to cut the risk of transmission of COVID-19 during the travel journey.
Other measures to protect the safety of passengers during the pandemic include contactless check-in and immigration formalities at both the departure and arrival airports, social distancing where possible, increased cleaning and sanitization at airports and on aircraft, and contact tracing.
“The research we have seen to date, and our own investigations with the world’s airlines, tell us that the risk of catching COVID-19 on a flight remains very low,” ,” said IATA’s Medical Advisor, Dr David Powell. “There appears to be a number of factors supporting that. The high flow rate of cabin air from top to bottom, constant filtering of air through state-of-the-art HEPA filters, the fact that all seats face the same direction and of course wearing a face covering and sanitization of the aircraft all play a part.”