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BA, Virgin and Heathrow to drop mask mandate on Wednesday, all UK travel restrictions end Friday

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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.”

All UK travel restrictions to end on Friday, including Passenger Locator Forms

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.

BA 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. 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.

Comments (255)

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  • Nick Burch says:

    In Heathrow now

    Website has been updated to say that you don’t need a mask, but all the signs and posters and video screen adverts haven’t

    Probably 25% of customers without a mask, nearer 1/2 the BA staff (most with sunflower lanyards). No comments from checkin, security or lounge staff about not wearing a mask. Not even a “do you have a mask for the plane” (we’re going somewhere that needs them)

    Inside the lounge, very few with masks, even those walking around

    • Rob says:

      Rule changes tomorrow – you need a mask today.

    • John says:

      Don’t think check in staff or lounge staff can be bothered to know and remember mask rules for every destination

      • Nick Burch says:

        No mask checks at the gate, cabin crew asking people to mask up on boarding, and handing out masks to those who’d forgotten them

        CDG had signs up about requiring masks, but compliance was significantly worse than in Heathrow!

  • Dennis says:

    Well, I’m really pleased, I am on my 7th day of being positive! It is only a minor cold! I have Antigua booked in 5 weeks! No testing, no forms and no masks!! Great news!

    • ChrisC says:

      This is the nonsense we have to deal with.

      Since you tested positive then you have Covid. End of.

      That the symptoms you are suffering are the same as a cold does not mean you have a cold. You have Covid.

      • John says:

        Well, a cold and COVID-19 are both types of COVIDs (coronavirus diseases), though colds can be caused by other viruses too.

      • Roz says:

        Chris C, I couldn’t agree more!

  • David A says:

    According to TLfL, BA have confirmed that masks must be worn to and FROM the US: “To ensure a consistent approach for our customers. If there’s a requirement to wear a mask on flights to a particular destination then we also require one to be worn on flights from that destination.”
    So much for basing it on health considerations; consistency is the deciding factor. Where’s the logic in this stance? Can we take them off once out of US air space? Does a virus know the difference?
    No, it’s all about BA not falling foul of Federal regulations and keeping everything simpler for their employees. QUITE FARCICAL.

  • Andrew J says:

    Clarification on the policy by BA according to TLFL:
    BA said “To ensure a consistent approach for our customers. If there’s a requirement to wear a mask on flights to a particular destination then we also require one to be worn on flights from that destination.”

    So it seems the to not from rule won’t apply.

  • Jonnyfly says:

    On BA206 from Miami that arrived this morning (16 Mar), crew announced that from midnight GMT (just gone) masks were optional. About an hour before then the crew stopped wearing them, along with most of the pax.

    • Andrew J says:

      Sounds like the crew didn’t see management’s latest memo either then.

  • Guy Incognito says:

    US Senate voted 57-40 to remove the mask mandate yesterday. Obviously Sleepy Joe is going to try and veto it.

    • marcw says:

      It’s just a resolution. No meaningful consequences.

      • Guy Incognito says:

        It doesn’t affect me as I’m exempt and have never worn a mask when flying!

    • Rui N. says:

      At least first learn that in the US laws have to be approved by both chambers of Congress before going to the President? And the President can’t “try” to veto it, he either vetoes it or signs it into law. (Congress can then try to override the veto, if they have the votes.)

  • Ian says:

    So if you’re flying from England to Scotland or vice-versa, do you need to wear a mask, as Scotland is continuing with the face mask requirement on public transport until April?

  • Paula says:

    According to flyer talk the new optional mask wearing policy has been delayed due to a compliance issue but nothing in the media.

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