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BA, Virgin and Heathrow to drop mask mandate on Wednesday, all UK 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 (252)

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  • TGLoyalty says:

    I feel like the removal of the PLF is a key win for everyone!

    Assuming virgin won’t be changing mask rules until USA end the federal mandate.

    • bafan says:

      Hopefully might speed up bag drop. Nobody anywhere seems to use that verify tool BA has so the lines have just become slow like anything.

  • abc says:

    A little bit ironic that the “changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout” but the people mainly profiting from these changes are people that decided not to get vaccinated.

    • Thegasman says:

      We’re at the point now where they’re only harming themselves. Yes, as a healthcare professional, it’s frustrating that they still have a disproportionate impact for their very small numbers but they aren’t going to overwhelm the NHS.

      Unfortunately the mask & pseudo vaccine mandates have just cemented most of the anti-vaccine brigades hostility to any Covid adaptations & made it increasingly less likely they will behave in responsible behaviour like getting tested & staying at home if symptomatic.

    • JerrySignfield says:

      Nobody is profiteering from having freedoms given back. The whole point of restrictions was to stop the NHS being overwhelmed, the rest was debatable

      • Ian says:

        Naively I thought the NHS was run at huge expense to protect me. I didn’t realise my role in life was to protect the NHS.

        • JerrySignfield says:

          Yes, that was what they were saying to start with anyway

        • Seriously says:

          But you do understand the simple logic of supply and demand right? It’s the same with the famous toilet paper run or oil run we experienced. The supply line works for the normal times, when the demand is greatly exceeded you struggle. It’s the same with hospitals. I don’t understand that presumably smart people still struggle to get this. How difficult it is?

    • Tariq says:

      The unvaccinated will still need testing etc to go places, unless other countries adopt the same rules. I don’t see any sign of that personally, other countries seem to be going much slower in relaxing the entry measures.

  • Bonglim says:

    Seems mental that they didn’t do it when cases were lower a month ago – but now cases are most definitely on the rise they are pressing ahead with mask rules.

    That is not a comment for or against mask rules, just that it makes no sense with the swing in cases.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Though ICU admissions are at its lowest level in about a year and cases no longer lead to a significant number of seriously ill people.

    • JerrySignfield says:

      Cases aren’t the most important number

    • J says:

      Weather makes a difference.

  • Nick says:

    BA will end the network-wide requirement to wear masks on 16 March but keep it on a route-by-route basis. Flights to and from the US will continue to be covered by the Federal Mask Mandate, along with some European routes where destination rules insist on it, and both crew and passengers will continue to wear them on these routes. Will be confusing, but I suppose that’s what people want…!

    • ayearinmx says:

      i have an 8pm flight from LHR-Buenos Aires tomorrow night (March 15), so i feel like i should be able to avoid mask-wearing from midnight onwards…..

  • BJ says:

    So we’ll see Djokovic at SW19 this summer…

    • Daniel says:

      has he now become evil for gullible – sorry, had to do get a jab for my travels, but still got covid twice – people?

    • Spurs drive me mad says:

      I quite admire people who stick to their principles. Why should he stick an experimental drug into his body if he doesn’t want to.

  • DS says:

    OT: I drove past the former HI Ariel LHR yesterday and saw Best Western signs

    • Rob says:

      Yes, swapped during covid. I think it failed IHG quality standards.

  • NorthernLass says:

    Will they have air marshalls on the US flights to enforce the mask mandate?! It seems a bit bizarre, everyone on the flight will be both vaccinated and have a very recent negative test and they will have been mainly maskless prior to boarding (probably soon), in packed airports and on public transport. What difference is wearing a mask on a plane (but not while eating and drinking) going to make, exactly?

    • k says:

      It’s just a joke. Like the supposed protection the onboard HEPA filters were providing.

  • Tim says:

    Does anyone have any info about the rumoured changes to Club Europe catering this week too??

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