Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport.
This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations.
For officials of Spain’s flagship airline Iberia, the time has come for this rule to be lifted.
“One of the airline industry’s main concerns is that mask wearing doesn’t make much sense,” Iberia’s Corporate Communications Director Juan Cierco said during a business talk organised by Spanish news agency Europa Press on Monday.
“We’re the only country along with China and one or two more that still has this rule.”
Cierco added, whilst putting on a mask to prove a point, that: “Here we are with seven ministers, none of them are wearing a mask, so getting on a plane now to or from Spain and being forced to wear a mask doesn’t make sense”.
The corporate director stressed that he wasn’t questioning the view of health experts but couldn’t understand why almost all other countries ditched the mask rule for public transport long ago.
“We should take off our masks because it’s affecting tourism and business now. Many international passengers tell us that they prefer to fly to other destinations or with other airlines, because 10 hours with the mask on board a plane, when it is no longer necessary or essential for health reasons, it just doesn’t make any sense”.
Iberia critica, ante varios miembros del Gobierno, que España siga siendo de los pocos países que obliga a llevar mascarilla en los aviones: "Ha llegado el momento de quitárnosla porque empieza a afectar al turismo. Ya no tiene sentido" https://t.co/lRez5dxVsa #EPJornadaTurismo pic.twitter.com/eiv52SuKEU
— Europa Press (@europapress) November 14, 2022
As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to wear masks.
If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.
Spain’s Confederation of Bus Transport (Confebús), German company FlixBus and Madrid Municipal’s Transport Company (EMT) have also voiced their opposition to the lingering mask rule.
So, will Iberia’s views make a difference to the Spanish government’s stance regarding masks?
According to a report published in late October, the Spanish government’s health experts have agreed not to review face mask usage on public transport until March 2023.
The article, which cites internal sources from Spain’s government, adds that the country’s Public Health Commission (a body which advises Spain’s Health Ministry on which measures to introduce) has reportedly agreed to shelve any possible changes until March, and as things stand keep the rule in place “for an indefinite time” as “it is not the right time to remove masks due to the arrival of winter”.
Spain’s Health Ministry, however, argues that no fixed date for reviewing face mask legislation has been set.