Dutch carriers KLM, Transavia, Corendon and TUI Nederland, have said that they will no longer enforce mask-wearing on flights, despite government requirements. The airlines say the face coverings have been a cause of increased passenger unrest.
New Government Guidelines
The Dutch Government released new laws this week, alleviating the mask requirements on all public transport except planes, starting 23 March. Airlines have expressed dismay and frustration over the move, with KLM saying it was “disappointing” to see the rules maintained for flying whilst being relaxed for other forms of transport. TUI shares this view, adding:
“There is better air quality in the plane than in the train. We notice that passengers are less and less willing to comply with these requirements. It can no longer be explained or defended. This has recently led to an increase in aggression on board towards our crew and other passengers.”
The government says that it has kept the face-covering requirements to be in line with guidelines from European Aviation authority EASA, and international authority ICAO. However, a Transavia spokesperson refuted this, saying that the international agreements only ‘urgently recommend’ a facemask and do not require them.
Consequently, TUI Nederlands, Corendon, KLM and their subsidiary Transavia have all said that they will not ask their passengers to wear masks next Wednesday. With KLM adding:
“The industry considers [the government’s] approach inappropriate, given the stage of the pandemic. Moreover, it is at odds with European and international developments that we follow closely. Because the explainability and proportionality continue to decline, we see an increase in misunderstanding among our passengers and a growing number and also more serious incidents with ‘unruly’ passengers, which may negatively affect the safety of a flight. We are therefore currently in consultation with the Dutch government, because we believe that wearing face masks is no longer explainable to our passengers.
We plan to no longer monitor this from March 23. Instead, we will strongly recommend that our passengers wear masks on board in line with EASA and ICAO guidelines.”
All of the airlines boycotting the new law have cited unruly passenger behaviour among their chief concerns. And perhaps they have a point; the American Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) reported a disturbing increase in violent passenger behaviour last year, with 4,290 incidents out of 5,981 related to mask compliance. Transavia has said that keeping the mask mandate will only exacerbate these issues, stating:
“Flight safety is endangered, because this measure leads to non-compliance and more aggression.”
It will be interesting to see what the week ahead holds as the airlines argue the new law with the Dutch government.
Do you think the airlines are right to go against the government’s requirements? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!