The International Air Transport Association is appealing to all travellers to wear face covering during the travel journey for the safety of all passengers and crew during COVID-19.
The organisation is emphasising the need for passengers to comply with the recommendation following recent reports of travellers 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 become violent, resulting in costly and extremely inconvenient diversions to offload these passengers.
Wearing face coverings is a key recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) guidance for safe operations during the pandemic, as developed jointly with the World Health Organisation and governments.
“This is a call for common sense and taking responsibility. The vast majority of travellers understand the importance of face covering both for themselves as well as 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 jeopardise a flight’s safety, disrupt the travel experience of other passengers and impact the work environment for crew,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Obligations under Conditions of Carriage
A plane ticket is a contract under which the passenger agrees to the airline’s terms and Conditions of Carriage. Those conditions can include the airline’s right to refuse carriage to a person whose behaviour interferes with a flight, violates government regulations or causes other passengers to feel unsafe. Airlines also highlight the need to wear a face covering during the booking process, at check-in, at the gate and in onboard announcements.
Failure to comply means that a passenger faces the risk of being offloaded from their flight, restrictions on future carriage or penalties under national laws.
Face Covering is part of a layering of measures
According to tests at the University of Edinburgh, face covering, when properly worn, can cut the forward spread of potential COVID-19 droplets from the mouth by 90%.
“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. 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,” said IATA’s Medical Advisor, Dr David Powell.
“This is not just about protecting yourself. It’s about protecting everyone else on the flight,” he said.
Recently, IATA released an airline self-assessment health checklist to support the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis. The Take-off guidance is the global standard framework of risk-based temporary measures for governments and the air transport value chain for safe operations during the COVID-19 crisis.