British Airways and Virgin Atlantic scrap face masks on some routes as government ends travel curbs
British holidaymakers will not be required to wear masks on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights following the government’s announcement that all Covid travel measures will end on Friday.
British Airways customers will only need to wear a face covering on board flights if their destination requires it, while Virgin Atlantic said it would be ‘gradually’ removing compulsory mask rules from tomorrow – starting with Caribbean flights from London and Manchester.
The airlines welcomed the move after Heathrow announced they would be scrapping mandatory face coverings for passengers from March 16 amid the ‘continued success of the vaccine’ and as society ‘learns to live with Covid long-term’.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday the changes will allow ‘greater freedom in time for Easter’ and will mean ‘you can travel just like in the good old days’.
British holidaymakers will not be required to wear masks on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights following the government’s announcement that all Covid travel measures will end on Friday (file image)
British Airways customers will only need to wear a face covering on board flights if their destination requires it, while Virgin Atlantic said it would be ‘gradually’ removing compulsory mask rules from tomorrow – starting with Caribbean flights from London and Manchester (file image)
The airlines welcomed the move after Heathrow announced they would be scrapping mandatory face coverings for passengers from March 16 amid the ‘continued success of the vaccine’ and as society ‘learns to live with Covid long-term’ (Pictured: Heathrow airport)
Heathrow said they ‘strongly encourage’ those at the airport to continue wearing a face covering – particularly when coming into close contact with others – although this will no longer be a firm requirement.
The change will take effect in all of Heathrow’s terminals, rail stations and office buildings.
Corneel Koster, chief customer and operating officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: ‘As we learn to live with Covid and with the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice whether to wear a mask onboard on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply.’
He added masks will be required on most services, including those to or from the United States until April 18 ‘at the earliest’.
Jason Mahoney, British Airways’ chief operating officer, said the move was ‘welcome’ and ‘a positive step forward’.
He said: ‘As an international airline, we fly to a large number of countries around the world, all of which have their own local restrictions and legal requirements.
Heathrow said they ‘strongly encourage’ those at the airport to continue wearing a face covering – particularly when coming into close contact with others – although this will no longer be a firm requirement (Pictured: Heathrow airport)
Mask policy of major UK airlines
Jet2 – NO MASKS
A Jet2 spokesman said: ‘It is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face mask in England and Northern Ireland, including at our airports or on board our aircraft.
‘However, as per UK Government guidance, we recommend that customers continue to wear a face mask in these spaces, and we remind customers that they will need to wear one when they get to their overseas destination.’
Ryanair – MASKS TO BE SCRAPPED
Michael O’Leary said he would like to see the end of face coverings on planes by the end of April.
British Airways – NO MASKS
A BA spokesman said: ‘We welcome this as a really positive step forward.
‘As an international airline we fly to a large number of countries around the world, all of which have their own local restrictions and legal requirements.
‘We’re working through these and from Wednesday March 16, customers will only be required to wear a face covering on board our flights if the destination they’re travelling to requires it.
EasyJet – MASKS NEEDED
EasyJet passengers are still required to wear masks onboard planes.
An easyJet spokesman said ‘at present there are no changes to easyJet’s mask policy, however we continue to keep this under regular review in conjunction with our in-house medical adviser and key industry bodies’.
TUI – NO MASKS
TUI said in a statement: ‘It’s no longer a legal requirement for those travelling to or from England or Northern Ireland to wear a during their TUI Airways flight, but – in accordance with UK government and EU Charter guidance – we do still strongly recommend that you do so.’
Virgin Atlantic – NO MASKS
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: ‘As we learn to live with Covid and with the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice whether to wear a mask onboard, on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply.
‘This policy will be introduced gradually, beginning with our Caribbean services from Heathrow and Manchester airports and we encourage everyone to be respectful of fellow passengers’ mask preferences.’
Loganair – MASKS NEEDED
A Loganair spokesman said ‘Loganair hasn’t made any changes to its policy as of yet however, as with all aspects of its Covid-19 response, it remains under continual review. If and when changes are made, we will announce it publicly. As it stands, face masks are mandatory unless conditions for a medical exemption exist’.
‘For destinations where the wearing of a face covering is not mandated, our customers are able to make a personal choice, and we kindly request everyone respects each other’s preferences.’
It comes as Jet2 became the first UK airline to drop the requirement for travellers to wear masks onboard their planes from and to England and Northern Ireland.
Tui has also dropped its rules on masks on flights with immediate effect, becoming the biggest operator in Britain to do so.
Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said: ‘Other countries ditched passenger locator forms weeks ago but it is good news the UK Government has now scrapped all travel restrictions for coming to the UK.
‘If we are to compete on a world stage we need to be ‘open for business’ and not ask people to fill in lengthy forms.’
In a statement, Heathrow’s Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe said: ‘We have worked hard to keep our passengers and colleagues safe during the pandemic.
‘We acted quickly to institute face coverings as one of our first lines of defence, and we’re pleased that we’re now able to move away from a mandatory requirement as society learns to live with COVID longer term.
‘While we still recommend wearing them, we can be confident the investments we’ve made in COVID-secure measures – some of which aren’t always visible – combined with the fantastic protection provided by the vaccine will continue to keep people safe while travelling.
‘We’re gearing up for a busy summer travel season, and this change means we can look forward to welcoming our passengers back with a smile as we get them safely away on their journeys.’
The Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade association for UK airports, said ‘restriction-free travel is good news for passengers’.
AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: ‘People should feel encouraged to book their long-awaited holidays, trips to see relatives and friends abroad that they haven’t seen for a long time and travel to rekindle business ties with other countries.
‘Recovery is not a given, however, and with the rising cost of living, the rise in fuel prices and the uncertainty following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there remain potentially significant headwinds for UK airports as they seek to attract travellers back.’
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), a trade union for UK pilots, also said it welcomed the move.
Balpa general secretary Martin Chalk said: ‘The aviation industry has been through the worst crisis it has ever faced yet it will underpin the much-needed economic recovery that global Britain needs.
‘Balpa pilots look forward to taking Grant Shapps on his next trip and, in the meantime, call for the Government to publish its recovery plan for the sector urgently.
‘We must ensure that we can effectively compete and regain the competitive ground lost to European competitors as a result of the UK Government’s stringent and harmful approach.’
This move comes as Grant Shapps announced the end of all remaining coronavirus travel rules from March 18, paving the way for the return of hassle-free holidays.
It means passenger locator forms and Covid tests are being totally scrapped for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers in time for the Easter holidays.
The mask mandate for passengers and staff at London Heathrow Airport will also be scrapped.
The move brings to an end two years of ever-changing international travel restrictions.
Mr Shapps tweeted: ‘All remaining Covid travel measures, including the Passenger Locator Form and tests for all arrivals, will be stood down for travel to the UK from 4am on 18 March.
‘These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.’
Travel and tourism bosses hailed the announcement as a ‘truly significant milestone’ and said passengers can now ‘look forward to the return to pre-Covid normality’.
The announcement by Mr Shapps comes as travel to Greece is set to be made easier for British holidaymakers.
As of today, all arrivals in Greece will no longer be required to complete a passenger locator form.