MUMBAI: Passengers who refuse to wear face masks onboard flights could be offloaded from their flight, they could have restrictions imposed on them on future flights or they could be slapped with penalties under the national laws concerned, said global airlines trade body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in an appeal to travellers to follow the norms laid down for safe travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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 behavior interferes with a flight, violates government regulations or causes other passengers to feel unsafe,” said IATA in a press release issued recently.
Wearing face masks and coverings is a key recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) guidance for safe operations during the pandemic, as developed jointly with the World Health Organization and governments. IATA said it has emphasised 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,” it said.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO said: “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. 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.”
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%, said IATA. Face covering forms part of a multi-layered approach in the ICAO travel guidance issued 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.