EU drops mask mandate but Italy and Spain continue to demand masks on planes

Ryanair issues list of 14 countries for which you’ll still have to wear masks on flights

Lucy Thackray
Monday 16 May 2022 11:03 BST
Spanish airline Iberia has confirmed that masks onboard will remain
Spanish airline Iberia has confirmed that masks onboard will remain (Getty Images)

The EU today ended its bloc-wide mask mandate for flights, meaning airlines are free to issue their own rules for most destinations.

However, Italy and Spain are both standing firm on masks, asking passengers to wear them on flights to and from the country in the coming weeks.

Italy confirmed that its mask rule will remain until at least 15 June, while Spain’s authorities merely said the rule is unlikely to change in the coming days or weeks.

Last week the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) announced that the EU would drop its strict mask rule for flights on 16 May.

“Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures on wearing masks in public transport and transport hubs,” the two bodies said in a joint statement.

However, individual airlines may continue to demand masks, for example if a destination they’re flying to still legally requires mask-wearing.

The new guidance “takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries,” said the European health bodies.

The Italian government reiterated on Friday that its strict mask-wearing rules remain in place, including on flights to and from the country, reported local newspaper Corriere della Serra.

Italy currently requires higher-spec FFP2 masks to be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trains and ferries.

Meanwhile Spain’s health minister Carolina Darias said on Wednesday: “Europe says that the use of the mask on flights must be aligned with national regulations and in Spain we only recently decided that in this context it remains mandatory.”

On 20 April, Spain abolished mandatory mask-wearing indoors - except in care homes, hospitals and on public transport. It does not specify a certain type of mask.

Spain’s national airline, Iberia, confirmed that it would still require masks in the coming weeks in line with health ministry and Spanish Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) advice.

In a statement last week, the Ireland-based airline Ryanair said it will drop mandatory mask on most routes from today, but that masks must still be worn on flights to and from 14 specific countries.

These include some of the top 10 holiday destinations for Britons, including most-popular Spain as well as France and Greece.

The countries you must still wear a mask on Ryanair flights to and from are: Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson said: “We welcome this rule relaxation from EASA and the ECDC effective from Monday, 16May next. From that date, face masks will be optional on all Ryanair flights except those flights to/from the 14 EU States where masks remain mandatory on public transport.”

He added that the airline expects countries such as Italy and Spain to relax their individual mask rules in the coming weeks.

“We expect these states to relax their face mask rules over the coming days in line with these new health guidelines from EASA and the ECDC. Intending passengers can check the latest EU face mask regulations on the Re-Open EU website.”

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