The 13 European countries that still require masks on flights despite EU dropping rules

May 21, 2022

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The European Union scrapped face mask rules on planes and in airports across the continent earlier this week,  but a host of countries continue to enforce them.

In a joint statement released earlier this month, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said removing the mandate would ease pressure on an industry clambering back to its feet after a crippling pandemic.

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“For passengers and aircrew, this is a big step forward in the normalization of air travel,” according to the statement.

However, a number of European nations still regard the move as hasty, choosing to ignore the new guidance and continue to enforce their own mask mandates on flights. And they include some of Europe’s most popular holiday hotspots.

Which countries continue to hold firm on mask rules?

According to the BBC, they are:

  • Austria
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Spain

Conspicuous by its absence on that list of course is France, one of the few main summer holiday destinations to have lifted mask mandates on planes, trains and buses in light of the EU’s announcement.

Last week, Minister of Social Affairs and Health Oliver Veran announced the move on Twitter.

“The health situation, which is constantly improving, allows us to lift the obligation to wear a mask in all transport, from Monday. However, it remains recommended, especially for fragile people,” he wrote.

On April 28, Irish authorities decided that they would no longer require passengers to wear face masks while traveling on international airlines so long as the country of origin had waived the requirement.

However, the reluctance by many of the EU’s 27 member states to fall in line with EU guidance reflects a wider mood across the continent that COVID-19 is not gone yet.

Related: Face masks will no longer be mandatory on EU flights from next week

In Italy, passengers are required to keep wearing the more protective FFP2 mask on public transport until June 15.

And last week, Spanish health minister Carolina Darias stood firm in the country’s COVID-19 protection policy. “We have recently adopted measures, hand in hand with prudence and always with the unanimity of the experts and, in this case, the Interterritorial Health Council,” she said. “Therefore, in our regulations, it is not compulsory to wear a mask either on platforms or at airports, but it is on public transport and also on flights.”

The dominoes do appear to be falling, however. In Germany, for example, Transport Minister Volker Wissing suggested he was in favor of lifting the requirement for people to wear masks on buses, trains and trams. “We should proceed uniformly throughout Europe and abolish compulsory masks, especially in air travel,” he said. “I see the same need for adjustment for compulsory masks in buses and trains (in Germany).”

A number of airlines have also removed the requirement to wear masks on board planes, as long as the countries at either end of the flight allow it. They include EasyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2.

Related: A complete guide to the 6-month validity rule

As for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), they were keen to remind passengers to respect the personal choice of anyone wishing to continue wearing a mask.

“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” they said.

Vulnerable passengers, however, are advised to continue to wear face masks in spite of rule changes, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 mask, which provide superior protection over a surgical or cloth mask.

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

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