British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport have announced an end to compulsory mask wearing from Wednesday, following the Government’s announcement that all UK travel restrictions will end on Friday.
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, tweeted yesterday afternoon that:
“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.”
The key winners here are unvaccinated travellers, who will no longer need to take any tests on returning to the UK. This was an inevitable consequence of removing the Passenger Locator Form.
British Airways to end mask wearing from Wednesday
British Airways has announced an end to mask wearing on its aircraft where allowed by law. This will begin on Wednesday.
Cabin crew will continue to wear masks, and passengers will need to continue to wear them where required, such as when flying to – but not from – the United States and to some European countries.
“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.”
Heathrow will end mask wearing on Wednesday
Heathrow has also announced an end to mask wearing in the terminal, which will also kick in from Wednesday.
Gatwick has not yet made any announcement.
Virgin Atlantic will reportedly end mask wearing on Wednesday
Heathrow Airport has stated in its press release that Virgin Atlantic has also agreed to drop masks from Wednesday. The airline has not confirmed this.
I am seeing Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss on Tuesday morning so we will see what he has to say.
Reaction to the end of UK travel restrictions
In response to Grant Shapps’s announcement, Virgin Atlantic said in a statement:
“The removal of all remaining UK travel restrictions, including the Passenger Locator Form, is the final important step towards frictionless air travel, helping to further restore consumer confidence as we welcome more customers back to the skies this Spring and Summer. With these barriers to travel removed, Britain is open for business and passengers can reconnect with loved ones and business colleagues once again. To uphold the experience of all travellers, it’s vital that the UK Government works closely with industry to ensure the UK border is ready for increasing passengers, as international travel ramps up.”
Airlines UK, the trade body for UK aviation, said:
“Today’s announcement sends a clear message to the world – the UK travel sector is back. With travellers returning to the UK no longer burdened by unnecessary forms and testing requirements, we can now look forward to the return to pre-Covid normality throughout the travel experience.
“We’re grateful for the timing of the announcement as we prepare to welcome back passengers this Easter and Summer, for which we know there is huge pent-up demand, and for the UK’s leadership in being the first major aviation market to remove all remaining restrictions. The time to return to the skies – to enjoy all that makes aviation and international travel great, for families and businesses – is now.”
Whilst many countries have removed maks mandates on the ground, British Airways is the first major international airline to announce that masks need not be worn if not required by local law. It remains to be seen if this will be a popular or unpopular move when it comes to selling tickets.