The Civil Aviation Ministry on Wednesday said the use of masks is not compulsory during air travel but passengers should preferably use them, a decision that comes amid declining number of coronavirus cases.

Till now, the use of masks or face covers while travelling in flights was mandatory.

In a communication to the scheduled airlines, the ministry said the latest decision has been taken in line with the government's policy of a graded approach to Covid-19 management response.

"... the in-flight announcements henceforth may only mention that in view of the threat posed by Covid-19, all passengers should preferably use mask/ face covers," the communication said.

It also said that any specific reference to fine/ penal action need not be announced as part of the in-flight announcements.

The requirement for mandatory use of mask or face covers during air travel has been reviewed in consultation with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, it added.

The subject of the communication is 'review of Covid-19 guidelines for domestic & international flight operations - In flight announcements regarding mask/ face covers'.

A senior ministry official said the decision is applicable for airlines.

An airline industry official said the ministry's decision is with immediate effect and the carriers will be communicating the same to the crew.

The total number of active coronavirus cases in the country accounted was only 0.02 per cent of the total infections and the recovery rate increased to 98.79 per cent, according to the latest official data.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 4,41,28,580 and the case fatality rate was recorded at 1.19 per cent.

In the wake of the pandemic, scheduled domestic flight services were suspended for two months starting from March 25, 2020. Scheduled international flight services, which was also suspended from the same day, was restored only from March 27 this year.