Masks on planes requirement dropped by some UK airlines

Mar 15, 2022, 12:22 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:17 pm

FILE PHOTO: A British airways aeroplane tailfin and a Virgin Atlantic areoplane are seen with the c...

FILE PHOTO: A British airways aeroplane tailfin and a Virgin Atlantic areoplane are seen with the control tower at Heathrow airport., London, Britain, May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

(CNN) — Face coverings have become a staple of air travel over the past couple years. For some passengers, they’ve proven divisive — mask non-compliance has been blamed for the majority of US disruptive inflight incidents so far in 2022.

Now they’re starting to vanish from the skies altogether. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are set to make mask-wearing optional for passengers and crew on certain flights from March 16.

The UK-based airlines announced the change in statement issued by London’s Heathrow Airport, which is also removing its mask requirement this week.

Heathrow, BA and Virgin Atlantic say they’re following the government guidance for England and Northern Ireland, where the legal requirement to wear a face covering on public transport and indoor spaces has been removed. Masks remain compulsory on public transport in Scotland and Wales.

All four nations in the UK have also agreed to eradicate the remaining international travel restrictions, allowing all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to enter the UK without testing from March 18 onwards.

Smaller UK airlines Jet2 and Tui have also dropped face masks for select flights.


Route-specific rules


Going mask-free will only be permitted on certain Virgin Atlantic and British Airways flights.

That’s because each destination has different rules and laws regarding masks and aviation.

“This policy will be introduced gradually, beginning with our Caribbean services from Heathrow and Manchester airports,” reads a statement from Corneel Koster, Virgin’s chief customer and operating officer. Virgin has published full details on the mask-free flights on its website.

Meanwhile, a statement from British Airways’ chief operating officer Jason Mahoney said BA was “working through” each destinations’ local restrictions and legal requirements.

BA’s official line is that “customers will only be required to wear a face covering on board our flights if the destination they’re traveling to requires it.”

However, that doesn’t automatically mean face masks can be left at home when traveling to the UK.

Some destinations currently require masks for inward and outward bound flights — such as the US, where the mask mandate is set to be in place until at least April 18.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stipulates that mask wearing is required “traveling into, within, or out of the United States.”

Virgin Atlantic says destinations Delhi, Islamabad, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lahore, Lagos, Mumbai, Shanghai and Tel Aviv have similar rules, meaning travelers must continue to mask up on board even if they’re traveling from these places to the UK.

As the face covering rule will now be determined by the specific laws surrounding face coverings in specific destinations, there’s potential for confusion among travelers and airline staff.

In response to a passenger asking about mask-wearing on flights to and from Portugal, a BA representative on Twitter said: “I imagine you wouldn’t need to wear a mask on a flight to the UK, due to UK law around masks. However, this hasn’t been communicated yet.”


Respecting fellow passengers


In their statements, both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ statements highlight that passengers should respect other travelers’ preferences on mask-optional flights.

While the move will be welcomed by some who feel the masks have become superfluous thanks to vaccine requirements or weakening virus potency, others are unhappy.

Frequent flier Jade Eyles, an assistant teaching fellow at Imperial College London, tells CNN Travel she thinks one solution could be seating passengers in the cabin in accordance with their face covering preference.

“Keeping those who would like to wear a mask in one section would then reduce the risk of transmission for that population, and supports those individuals who are vulnerable or do want to take additional precautions to not catch Covid-19,” she says.

Neither British Airways nor Virgin Atlantic commented when asked by CNN Travel whether cabins could be divided into sections in accordance with travelers’ mask preference.

Eyles’ partner is based in the US and while her travel to visit him there isn’t currently impacted by the new rules, Eyles says she finds Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ steps to remove face masks “frustrating.”

“Although air is frequently replaced on planes, I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable sitting next to someone without a mask on,” says Eyles.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

World News

FILE - A TV screen shows an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the S...

Hyung-Jin Kim and Kim Tong-Hyung

North Korea spy satellite launch fails as rocket falls into the sea

North Korea’s attempt to put its first spy satellite into space has failed.

2 days ago

The brick tower used to be an observatory. (Arterra/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)...

Issy Ronald

UK castle could be yours for $37,000, but there’s a catch

A sprawling Scottish castle is on sale for offers over £30,000 ($37,000), but there is a catch; its current owners estimate that it requires an additional £12 million ($14.8 million) for restoration.

2 days ago

NASA logo near the top of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaver...

Associated Press

NASA talks UFOs with public ahead of final report on unidentified flying objects

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA held its first public meeting on UFOs on Wednesday a year after launching a study into unexplained sightings and insisted it’s not hiding anything. The space agency televised the four-hour hearing featuring an independent panel of experts who vowed to be transparent. The team includes 16 scientists and other […]

2 days ago

A beluga whale widely speculated to be an alleged Russian “spy” has entered Swedish waters, acc...

James Frater, Catherine Nicholls and Jack Guy

Alleged Russian ‘spy’ whale now in Swedish waters

A beluga whale widely speculated to be an alleged Russian “spy” has entered Swedish waters, according to OneWhale.

3 days ago

Gondolas navigate by the Rialto Bridge on Venice's historical Grand Canal as a patch of phosphoresc...

Barbie Latza Nadeau and Caolán Magee

Venice authorities discover why canal turned fluorescent green

A mysterious patch of fluorescent green water that appeared in Venice’s famed Grand Canal Sunday was caused by a chemical commonly used in underwater construction to help identify leaks, environmental authorities say.

3 days ago

Ukrainian air defense intercepts a Shahed drone mid-air in the third Russia aerial attack on the ca...

Susie Blann and Joanna Kozlowska

Russia says drones damage Moscow buildings in pre-dawn attack, blames Ukraine

A rare drone attack jolted Moscow Tuesday morning, lightly damaging some buildings and leading to the evacuation of others, while Russia pursued its relentless bombardment of Kyiv with a third assault on the city in 24 hours.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Masks on planes requirement dropped by some UK airlines