More than three months after Europe’s infectious disease specialists advised EU member states to drop their air travel mask mandates, Portugal has finally lifted its own public transit face mask rules, including for air travel.
The announcement was made last Thursday, and the rules were officially lifted on Saturday after Portugal’s Minister of Health, Marta Temido said there had been “favourable developments” in the country’s fight against COVID-19.
Temido noted, however, that people should continue to assess their personal surroundings and take measures to protect themselves, including by wearing a mask if they feel it is necessary to do so.
As well as lifting mask rules on airplanes, face masks are no longer required in nearly all other public settings across Portugal except hospitals and elderly care homes.
Portugal’s decision to ditch face masks now leaves just Germany and Spain as Europe’s major outliers for requiring airline passengers to wear a face mask.
In both countries, face masks are not required in nearly any other public setting, including in airport terminals, but they are mandated by law as soon as a passenger steps onboard the aircraft.
Germany recently extended and strengthened its own air travel mask mandate until April 7, 2023, requiring passengers aged over 14 to wear an FFP2 mask, while children aged between six and 14 must wear a medical mask. Disposable masks will no longer be accepted.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has come under pressure to lift the mask mandate after he was photographed chatting unmasked on a government jet, but Germany’s ministry of health says the rules are an essential measure to prevent virus transmission during the winter months.
It could even be the case that as virus cases start ticking up in the next few months that other countries also reimpose air travel mask mandates. Cyprus recently brought back its indoor mask mandate, although that rule covered airport terminals and not onboard the aircraft.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.