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UK airlines ditch masks on flights — but you'll still need to wear one on a US flight

March 15, 2022
4 min read
Dad and son wearing masks and looking out of an airport window.
UK airlines ditch masks on flights — but you'll still need to wear one on a US flight
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London's Heathrow Airport (LHR), British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have joined forces to ditch masks in terminals and on flights, it was reported Tuesday.

From Wednesday, travelers will be free to pass through Britain’s largest airport completely bare-faced and mask-free, while the country's two biggest long-haul carriers said passengers will be allowed to "make a personal choice" regarding masks on certain flights.

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The news came as the British government announced that the final remaining COVID-19 travel measures in the United Kingdom will be scrapped starting Friday.

But while the aviation industry seeks to fall in line with other transport organizations in the U.K., Heathrow was keen to encourage customers to “continue wearing a face covering — particularly when coming into close contact with others."

Related: Why you should upgrade your mask before your next trip

“Face coverings will remain available at the airport to support those who wish to continue wearing them," the airport said in a statement. “We know some passengers may feel vulnerable, and we are encouraging colleagues to be respectful and put on a face covering when near a passenger who requests it."

"Should a significant rise in COVID cases or a future variant of concern materialise, Heathrow will not hesitate to reinstate the mandatory use of face coverings at the airport.”

Alongside Heathrow’s announcement, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic welcomed the move, each stating their own intentions to scrap compulsory mask-wearing on flights to certain destinations.

Related: No sign of US ending testing rules for international travel

"We welcome this as a really positive step forward,” said British Airways CEO Jason Mahoney. “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. 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.”

Virgin Atlantic's chief customer and operating officer, Corneel Koster, agreed: “As we learn to live with [COVID-19] 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."

Related: Final remaining travel restrictions in the UK to be scrapped this week

Earlier this month, Jet2 became the first airline to drop its mask-wearing mandate, soon followed Tui with their own announcement. Ryanair revealed plans to ease out face masks by spring.

Related: A country-by-country guide to where you can travel with no COVID-19 test required

The announcement came a day after British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the final remaining COVID-19 travel measures in the U.K. — including the dreaded passenger locator form and tests for unvaccinated arrivals — will be scrapped from Friday.

That news comes just in time for Easter and will bring relief to holidaymakers across the U.K. It will be the first time since spring 2020 that travelers have been able to enter the country without restrictions.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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