British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Embrace Freedom, Remove Mask Mandates on Flights

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: A British Airways plane lands at Heathrow Airport on March 19
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

British Airways has become the world’s first major airline to remove mask mandates onboard the aircraft for passengers from Wednesday, in a move shortly followed by Virgin Atlantic.

Britain’s second-largest airline firm announced on Tuesday that they will no longer require passengers to wear masks on board their planes and will instead allow people to “make a personal choice” on the matter.

Yet, British Airways did note that there will be an exception for flights to countries with their own “restrictions and legal requirements,” which currently includes nations such as the United States.

Virgin Atlantic also announced that they will be dropping mask requirements, albeit with a more graduated approach, by starting with removing mask requirements for passengers travelling between London or Manchester and the Caribbean from Wednesday.

“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 on board, on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply,” said Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic’s chief operating officer.

The two companies join British airline Jet 2 which announced in early March that passengers will no longer be required to wear masks on any of their flights in England and Northern Ireland.

The news comes as British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that the UK will be scrapping all remaining travel rules related to coronavirus, meaning that regardless of vaccination status, individuals arriving in Britain will not need to complete passenger locator forms, The Times reports.

Britain’s largest airport, Heathrow — while still advising passengers to wear masks — is also set to retire the requirements in its terminals.

“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,” Heathrow’s chief operating officer Emma Gilthorpe said.

There are currently no domestic coronavirus requirements in England as mask-wearing, isolation periods, and testing rules were all scrapped on the 24th of February.

The return to normality in travel comes despite airline Tsars incorrectly warning in February that mask requirements could remain on planes for years to come.

While the UK is moving to remove restrictions, all American airlines still require masks to be worn throughout journeys, with Democrat President Joe Biden maintaining the federal mask mandate requirements until at least the 18th of March when they are up for renewal. The White House has so far not made any indication that they plan to let the mandate expire.

Those who do not comply with the mask requirements on planes face fines of $500 for first-time offenders, which increases up to $3000 for those who refuse a second time.

The American mask mandate – for planes, airports, trains and other public transport – remains in place despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing changes to its guidelines, meaning that the vast majority of Americans no longer have to wear masks indoors.


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