What are the new Covid face covering rules on European flights?

Passengers are no longer required to wear face coverings on many flights within Europe. Credit: AP

Passengers are no longer required to wear a face covering to protect against Covid-19 on many flights in Europe from Monday.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have dropped the recommendation for the mandatory wearing of medical masks in airports and onboard planes.

But passengers may still be required to wear a protective face covering on certain routes.

Here's what you need to know about the latest travel face covering rules.

What is the latest advice?

The EASA and ECDC lifted the requirement to wear face masks on flights on Monday May 16 but noted "a face mask is still one of the best protection against the transmission of Covid-19.

“For passengers and aircrews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby," EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement last week.

Face masks will remain mandatory on public transport in Germany. Credit: AP

Will I ever have to wear a mask on a flight?

Yes, in some cases. While the EASA and ECDC have updated their recommendations, individual airlines and countries are free to impose their own regulations.

If authorities in the country of departure or arrival require people to wear face coverings on public transport, then passengers will need to wear a mask on board.

Face coverings will remain mandatory for all passengers over the age of six from or within Germany but from this week in France, wearing facemasks will no longer be needed in metros, bus, trains and domestic flights.

Greece has lifted all Covid rules for international and domestic flights except for the wearing of face masks during flights and at airports. Previously, air travellers were required to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or a recent recovery from the disease.

In Italy, passengers will need to wear a mask on board flights until June 15 in line with its mask mandate on public transport. Passengers on flights to and from Spain will also still be obliged to wear a face mask despite the EU recommendation.

Jet2, Norwegian, EasyJet as well as British Airways are among the airlines that have relaxed mask mandates.

Vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask, the agencies said.

This summer will see many travellers head to Europe for the first time since the pandemic started. Credit: PA

Will it still be safe to fly?

The latest data on the pandemic informed the joint Aviation Health Safety Protocol. The updated guidelines take into account the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity as well as the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries.