UAE airlines will continue with facemask policy for passengers. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Passengers on UAE-based airlines will continue to wear face masks, two carriers confirmed, while US-based carriers removed the requirement following a court ruling.

An Emirates airline spokesperson said: “There’s no change to our mask mandate.”

Passengers must wear a cloth or medical mask throughout Dubai International airport, during boarding, throughout the flight, and as they leave the aircraft. Children under 6 years old and customers who have certain medical conditions do not have to wear a mask.

Due to local government regulations, only medical face masks are accepted on flights from Dubai to Germany, France, and Austria. If for medical reasons, passengers are unable to wear a mask throughout the entire journey, they can contact Emirates airlines 48 hours before their flight to request an exception and present a medical certificate at check-in.

“Kindly note that wearing masks on board remains mandatory on flydubai,” said a spokesperson for the Dubai budget airline.

According to the flydubai website, medical reasons for being exempt from wearing a face mask include the following cognitive, intellectual and sensory conditions:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Down Syndrome
  • Developmental delay
  • Autism spectrum condition

This also applies to passengers who require supplemental oxygen or have the following respiratory conditions:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart failure
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma

Passengers respond

Some medical experts have urged passengers suffering from serious ailments to continue wearing masks. US-based oncologist Tatiana Prowell on Twitter said she is receiving messages from cancer patients who are concerned about flying without a mask mandate in place. “In addition to wearing N95 masks, I’m advising them to travel on less popular days/times if possible during the #pandemic for fewer crowds,” said Prowell on Twitter.

Another user on Twitter said: “I will still be wearing my mask in the airport and on planes”.

Some have welcomed the decision on the popular social media platform. “Unpopular opinion: I have a flight in 23 hours and am really excited to fly unmasked again. Incredibly supportive of those who choose to continue wearing masks - will happily mask up again if the mandate reverses,” said a user.

As per media reports, a federal judge in Florida has ruled that the directive was unlawful. Now, face masks are no longer required for airline passengers and staff at US airports and on domestic flights.

While it is true that air travel can result in the importation of passengers with COVID-19, the risk of spread among passengers while travelling aboard aircraft appears to be low. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has commented on the risk of COVID-19 transmission on aircraft: “The risk of being infected on an aeroplane cannot be excluded, but is currently considered to below for an individual traveller”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also noted that the risk of a passenger contracting the virus onboard is low. In a report from October 2020, the industry body said that only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission were reported among 1.2 billion travellers. “We recognize that this may be an underestimate but even if 90% of the cases were unreported, it would be one case for every 2.7 million travellers.”