Airlines will not have to leave seats empty, but passengers flying in the European Union will have to wear masks on planes and in airports under plans to revive the travel industry.
The European Commission made the non-binding recommendations on Wednesday as part of wider proposals to salvage the ailing tourism sector.
The commission noted that tourism sector previously represented some 10 per cent of the EU’s economic output and employed almost 12 per cent of its workforce.
It also said it would open legal cases against countries that breach EU law by not ensuring consumers can effectively get cash refunds for travel or holidays cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The starting point is that European consumers have a right to a cash refund, if that is what they want. Full stop,” Margrethe Vestager, a deputy head of the Commission, said.
It also said airlines will need to limit risks of infection, which could be achieved using hospital-grade air filtering, personal protective equipment and limiting movements.
On Tuesday, Ryanair (RYA.I) said that its passengers would be required to ask for permission to use the toilets to avoid queuing on the budget airline’s planes.
“Mandating the use of empty seats to increase physical distancing in aircraft is therefore not recommended,” the European Commission’s document said.
Airlines have raised concerns that measures to slow the spread of the pandemic could blight profitability long after any travel restrictions end.
The European Commission said that checking in, dropping off and picking up luggage should be reorganised to avoid crowds.
Airlines have already been advised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to check passenger temperatures, collect personal details for any contact tracing and to clean and disinfect terminals and equipment.
IATA, which has estimated the coronavirus crisis could cost airlines a total of 314 billion dollars, recommended facemasks be worn during flights but not blocking off the middle seats.
Some U.S. airlines have already implemented distancing measures, with some blocking middle seats, pausing automatic upgrades and changing the boarding process. (Reuters/NAN)
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