The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is appealing to all travellers to wear face coverings during the travel journey for the safety of all passengers and crew during COVID-19.
Wearing face coverings is a key recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s guidance for safe operations during the pandemic, as developed jointly with the World Health Organization and governments.
IATA emphasised the need for passengers to comply with the recommendation following recent reports of travellers refusing to wear a face covering during a flight.
The organisation said that while these incidents are confined to a “very small number of individuals”, some onboard incidents have become violent, resulting in “costly and extremely inconvenient” diversions to offload these passengers.
“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,” IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said.
“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.”
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 re also highlighting the need to wear a face covering during the booking process, at check-in, at the gate and in onboard announcements.
IATA said 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.
According to tests at the University of Edinburgh, face coverings – when properly worn – can cut the forward spread of potential COVID-19 droplets from the mouth by 90 per cent.
IATA’s medical advisor, Dr David Powell, said sanitisation practices, the high flow rate of cabin air from top to bottom in aircraft, constant filtering of air through state-of-the-art HEPA filters, and the fact that all seats face the same direction also play a part in preventing the virus’ spread.
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