Masks still compulsory on planes in Spain despite confusion

An outdated announcement by Spain’s Transport Minister on Thursday gave journalists the impression that masks would cease to be mandatory on aeroplanes, but the Spanish government has rushed to clarify what the country’s mask rules for public transport are. 

spain mask rules planes
face masks rules in Spain are exactly the same as they have been since last April. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP

Spain’s Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez on Thursday spoke in the Spanish Parliament about the rules relating to mask wearing for air travel, in effect regurgitating a change to legislation which was passed last April.

“Regarding air travel, based on the evolution of the Covid-19 health emergency, the royal decree eliminates the mandatory nature of the measures at airports, which will instead become recommendations,” Sánchez said.   

“We’re referring to mask wearing, temperature checks, social distancing, and with these modifications, we follow the lead of our neighbouring countries, removing obstacles and therefore helping the transport and tourism industry.”

The fact that Sánchez did not use the past tense to refer to the apparent changes gave Spanish journalists the impression that she must have been referring to masks on planes, even though this was not explicitly stated, as these are the only places relating to air travel where masks have continued to be mandatory for the past five months.  

However, the Spanish government has been quick to clarify that even though their Transport Minister spoke of the legislation as if it were new, the rules remain unchanged. 

In fact, Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias had stressed only two days earlier that face masks would continue to be compulsory on public transport, be it inside buses, ferries, taxis, planes, trams or trains. 

“We are approaching the final stage of the pandemic, although with great caution,” Darias said, adding that “if there is a change” to mask legislation, it would be based on “what the experts say”.

Therefore, face masks rules in Spain are exactly the same as they have been since last April. 

They are not compulsory in any outdoor public settings. They are not compulsory either in the vast majority of indoor settings, with the exception of hospitals, pharmacies, care homes, other health-related centres and on public transport. 

In general terms, that means that you don’t have to wear a mask at the airport or train station, but you do have to wear a mask on the plane or train. 

The article below offers a detailed breakdown of the rules. 

REMINDER: What are Spain’s specific mask rules for travel?

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Spain changes conditions for free train travel

Spain's state train operator Renfe has tweaked the terms and conditions for its free train travel offer in order to avoid 'ghost reservations'. Here's everything you need to know.

Spain changes conditions for free train travel

Renfe has changed the terms and conditions of reservations on its free travel offer for regional Media Distancia services, valid until the end of 2022, in order to avoid ‘ghost reservations.’ 

Announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during the ‘State of the Nation’ debate in the Spanish Congress in August, the free multi-journey ticket scheme is an offer on some trains operated by the state-owned train network, Renfe, including Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distancia (local and medium-distance journeys).

READ MORE: All you need to know about Spain’s plan for free train tickets

READ MORE: GUIDE: How to get free train tickets in Spain

But some passengers have been abusing the offer, it seems, by block booking tickets and never using them. In response, Renfe have tweaked their terms for taking up the offer on Media Distancia journeys.

Unlike on the Cercanías and Rodalies routes, which are also included in the free travel offer, on Media Distancia routes it is possible to reserve a seat, and some travellers have been making more than one reservation on the same route for different times through the day or week in order to secure a place, and then choosing the most convenient departure.

As a result, many services were fully booked with ‘ghost reservations’ days before their departure and preventing passengers who needed to buy a ticket from being able to do so.

This loophole was particularly widespread on regional routes in Galicia and Castilla-La Mancha, and from now on, Media Distancia customers can only buy tickets for a maximum of four daily trips (two return journeys) on Media Distancia trains, and can only buy the return journey when the initial journey has been made.

READ MORE: TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

“It is a question of guaranteeing the good use of the free passes for recurrent travelers and that as many people as possible can benefit,” Renfe sources said in the Spanish media.

READ ALSO: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

Renfe’s free train travel offer came into force on September 1st and will end at the end of the year, on December 31st. In order to obtain the offer, travelers must pay a €20 deposit that is returned at the end of the year if at least 16 trips have been made during the offer period.

According to Spanish newspaper El País, as of Monday September 12th, Renfe had already issued over 1 million free passes for Cercanías and Media Distancia trains.