COVID-19 RULES
Reader question: Do I need to wear a mask on flights to/from Austria?
The EU has eased recommendations for face masks on flights and in airports, but member states are free to put their own rules in place.
Published: 17 May 2022 10:41 CEST
Updated: 22 May 2022 08:44 CEST
Face masks will continue to be required an all Austrian flights. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)
Since Monday, May 16th, it is no longer mandatory to wear a medical-grade face mask on flights and at airports within the EU.
But Austria will continue with the rule for now, meaning that masks are required on flights to Austria.
The implementation of the EU recommendation is based on the national rules in individual countries. 
For flights, where a destination country has a mask rule in place, then masks must be worn. 
An Austrian Airlines spokesperson told the Kronen Zeitung: “The easing of the mask requirement is an EU recommendation that must be reflected in a national regulation in order to also apply in Austria.” 
The aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC states that if masks are mandatory on public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, then the regulation should also continue on board the aircraft.
According to current Austrian Covid-19 regulations, wearing an FFP2 mask is still required in hospitals, elderly and nursing homes, public transport (including stops and stations), taxis, customer areas of vital trade, such as supermarkets, and administrative buildings.
READ MORE: LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules
In addition to Austria, masks are still compulsory in some public areas in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy – all key tourism destinations for travellers from Austria.
Hayley Maguire
news@thelocal.at
@HayleyCMaguire
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Summer vacations and rising Covid-19 infection numbers are a dangerous combination for travellers. Here is what you need to know about your rights if you get sick and need to cancel your holidays to or from Austria.
Published: 30 June 2022 15:30 CEST
You are all set for your long-awaited vacations, but just before you leave, the coronavirus test comes back positive. What to do and what are your rights? Is it possible to get a refund on your trip to or from Austria?
Will the airline let you move your flight to a different date, or will the hotel reschedule your reservation?
As summer vacations arrive, with most European countries having no or almost no coronavirus restrictions, travelling is back – and with a vengeance, it appears. Austrian Airlines boss Annette Mann said that “people [now] have an insane desire to travel”.
READ ALSO: Will Austria see travel chaos in airports this summer?
At the same time, Austria has been facing rising Covid-19 infection numbers for weeks, and there is a fear of an intense summer wave.
On Thursday, June 30th, the country reported 12,506 new cases in 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.
What to do if you have symptoms?
If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, including mild flu-like symptoms like coughing or sneezing, you should get tested. In Austria, there are many alternatives for those looking for the test, from free PCR at home to antigen tests.
If you test positive with an antigen test, you should confirm the result with a PCR test. Once you are a suspected case, you should quarantine until your result is confirmed. If the PCR test is positive, you need to self-isolate for at least five days.
READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Austria
Self-isolation after a positive test is mandatory in Austria and most countries worldwide. That means that, by regulation, you are not allowed to leave your home for non-medical purposes during those days – or even longer,, depending on the course of the disease.
If you have a trip scheduled during your isolation period, that could be a problem.
What happens to my flight tickets?
Airline companies are not required to refund you or allow you to make changes to your flight for free – unless the ticket you purchased entitled you to these rights.
Most companies sell tickets for the same journey with different fares. Not only prices can change depending on the classic “economic, business, first class” divisions, but they can also increase dramatically depending on the type of ticket.
For example, an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna to Rome in economy starts at €59.92. There are then three options: economy light, economy classic, and economy flex.
An empty Austrian Airlines check-in counter. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP
READ ALSO: Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contract Covid
The first, with the lowest tariff, does not entitle you to a refund and will charge you €70 for rebooking plus a possible tariff difference.
A “economy classic” ticket costs €89.92, and will allow you to rebook without a charge (you only need to pay the difference in prices). It will not give you a refund.
Finally, the “economy flex” costs €129.92, allows for a refund (minus a €70 fee), and lets you rebook without a charge (you only have to cover the price changes).
READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?
The tickets have other differences, including allowing you to carry more luggage or reserve your seat, for example. Depending on which one you purchased, you may or may not be entitled to a refund.
What about my hotel reservations?
The same is valid for hotel reservations. Most of them, especially if you have used an online booking platform, will have different fees and travellers have different rights. It is essential to understand each tariff and what they entitle you to.
For example, a twin room in a hotel in downtown Vienna could cost you €92, but it is non-refundable and you need to pay in advance.
READ ALSO: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023
The same twin room can be found for €108, but with free cancellation – read the fine lines and you will see that even the free cancellation is only valid until three days before the booking date in some cases.
Just like airlines, hotels are not mandated to refund you if you can’t make it to your reservation because you or a travel companion got Covid-19. Unless you paid for the more flexible (and more expensive) rate.
Photo by Jorgen Hendriksen on Unsplash
What can I do, then?
It is worth mentioning that there are a few things you could try. For example, if you purchased travel insurance, or if your debit or credit card has it automatically, you might be able to get a refund. So, check those insurance documents.
Additionally, it may be possible to negotiate directly with a hotel. While airlines are major corporations and it might seem next to impossible to find a human being able to perhaps negotiate, this is not the case with a hotel.
READ ALSO: Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants
It may be that you are able to swap your reservation dates, depending on occupancy and how much wiggle room the hotel manager has. It won’t solve all your problems, but if it’s a trip to a nearby place, sometimes accommodation is more expensive than flights.
You also need to always be careful and double check the policies of tickets and hotel (or private accommodations) you buy and reserve. If you have booked through a travel agent or online platform, it is also worth looking if they have different cancellation or rescheduling policies.
Finally, if you have not made it to your hotel reservation because of a flight problem, if your flight was cancelled or delayed, for example, you have rights under the EU law.
*Prices for this story were checked on June 30th.
Amanda Previdelli
news@thelocal.at
@aprevidelliEN
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