As the world braces for a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is telling travelers to be responsible and wear masks at all times during travel to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.
The announcement comes days after reports of travelers refusing to wear a face covering during flight with several on- board incidents becoming violent, so much so that companies were forced to offload the said passengers, which IATA says is “costly and extremely inconvenient”.
The trade association representing the world’s airlines, said on Tuesday, that wearing a face mask is a key recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) guidance for safe operations during the pandemic, developed jointly with the World Health Organization (WHO) and governments.
“This is a call for common sense and taking responsibility. The vast majority of travelers understand the importance of face covering both for themselves as well as for their fellow passengers, and airlines appreciate this collective effort,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
“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,” added de Juniac.
IATA cites passenger obligations under the plane ticket contract by which the passenger agrees to the airline’s terms and conditions of carriage. These can include the airline’s right to refuse carriage to a person whose behavior interferes with a flight, violates government regulations or causes other passengers to feel unsafe.
Airlines are also pointing to the need to wear a face covering during the booking process, at check-in, at the gate and in onboard announcements.
Failure to comply may result in being offloaded from a flight, restrictions on future carriage, or penalties under national laws.
IATA goes on to cite research confirming that face coverings, when worn properly, can reduce the spread of Covid-19 droplets from the mouth by 90 percent. Other measures to protect the safety of passengers during the pandemic include contactless check-in and immigration formalities at both departure and arrival airports, social distancing, 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 medical advisor, David Powell.
Powell said the factors supporting the claim have to do with 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”, as well as mask wearing.