Passengers traveling to France have fallen foul of a little-known piece of legislation banning reusable masks on flights. The Decree, published in July, stated that passengers must wear disposable, surgical type masks, rather than the popular reusable type. While enforcement of this rule seems to vary between airlines, some passengers are now reporting a refusal of boarding unless a surgical mask is worn.
As cases of COVID-19 spike in France, wearing a mask has become mandatory in many locations. From Monday, tourists visiting popular areas around Paris have been ordered to wear a mask, and all closed public spaces including transport require a face covering to be employed.
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However, according to passengers on an easyJet flight, not all masks are created equal. Reporting in ConnexionFrance says that some passengers were refused boarding because they were wearing reusable masks, rather than the disposable surgical masks, usually blue or green in color.
According to the publication, one passenger was even asked to remove their high protection hospital-grade mask and replace it with the surgical one instead. There was nowhere in the airport to buy a mask, and easyJet did not have any to provide, therefore it was only through the kindness of fellow passengers that these people were allowed to board their flight.
While most travelers in Europe have readily accepted the requirement for a face covering, many prefer to use fabric, washable masks either homemade or shop-bought. However, it seems that, when traveling to France, passengers should be opting for the disposable surgical type if they want to be sure of boarding their flight.
easyJet has backed up its staff in their refusal to let people board with anything other than surgical masks. While easyJet’s policy states a ‘suitable protective face mask’ is required, it seems the airline was upholding the policy of the French government. It said that,
“French authorities have passed legislation that requires all passengers over the age of 11 travelling to and from France by air to wear a disposable surgical mask and no other types of face masks will be accepted.
“easyJet is informing customers of this requirement via email, SMS and Flight Tracker ahead of departure. Customers are also alerted to the importance of checking current travel requirements on our homepage and via our Know Before You Go information pages at easyJet.com.”
The legislation it refers to is Decree Number 2020-860 which was issued by the French government on July 10th. This states that,
Anyone eleven years of age or over wears, on board aircraft providing public transport to, from or within the national territory, upon boarding, a disposable surgical-type mask meeting the characteristics set out in the Annex 1 to this decree.
Annex one, for those curious, basically sets out that it should be a standard surgical mask, with no further details. However, the inclusion of ‘disposable’ in the decree means that the popular and widely used fabric, washable face coverings are, in theory, unacceptable.
Not an issue on all airlines
While easyJet appears to be taking a hardline approach to this regulation, other airlines are not so strict. French airlines such as Air France have reportedly demanded surgical masks all along, but other operators including Ryanair have not demanded any specific mask type.
For now, at least, those traveling to France would do well to take a stock of disposable masks with them to ensure they can board the flight.