From March 23, KLM, Transavia, and TUI Netherlands will no longer enforce face masks on flights. The airlines will instead recommend passengers wear them in line with EASA and ICAO guidelines. Charter carrier, Corendon, has said it will scrap all requirements entirely.
The move comes as an act of non-compliance against the Dutch government's decision to relax face mask requirements on all public transport, bar aviation, in line with current EU guidelines. In a statement, TUI has said:
“A safe journey for our passengers and our staff is our biggest priority. We urge the cabinet to make the requirement of wearing a face mask into a recommendation. We no longer want to monitor compliance with the face mask mandate onboard.”
KLM has expressed its disappointment at the decision, stating that the confusing legislation has caused anger from passengers. The Netherlands' flag carrier has said:
"The industry considers this 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 continues 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."
TUI shares a similar view, raising concerns about the physical safety of its staff and other passengers. Speaking to RTL Nieuws, A spokesperson for TUI added:
"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."
Praise for other legislation
Despite disappointment over masks, KLM has praised the Dutch government's adoption of relaxed entry requirements. Netherlands-bound EU travelers will no longer be required to test upon entry or provide vaccination certificates from March 23. KLM has said:
The fact that the Digital COVID Certificate is no longer needed for travel within the EU and from outside the EU to the Netherlands is positive for our customers. We are also very happy that the additional testing obligation for travelers traveling to the Netherlands from non-EU countries, regardless of vaccination status.
The new entry measures will be extended to EU citizens who have traveled to countries outside the EU or Schengen zone. However, the government still advises taking a self-test upon arrival.
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Current restrictions for non-EU travelers remain in place, except those who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID. Dutch holidaymakers will still require a QR code or Digital COVID Certificate to enter other EU countries.
All signs point to recovery for the tourism and aviation industry in the Netherlands. The country has already seen an increase of travel to the United Arab Emirates up 190% since 2019, and Mexico up 143%.
What do you think of the Dutch carriers' decision to scrap face masks? Should other European airlines follow? Let us know in the comments section.