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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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  • Mr B says:

    Its never really bothered me, personally I think masks should still be compulsory in tightly packed areas, Covid still about, as the vaccine starts to wear off so does immunity. I know off at least 6 healthy young people who have had it off late. All have felt pretty grotty, much worse than the common cold.

    • Freddy says:

      People will get it, that’s not going to ever stop. However, the imposition of masks/tests/restrictions for something between a cold and the flu is disproportionate

    • Kevin C says:

      I had my first case of Covid in early Feb. Definitely not a cold, more like a cold and flu had a mutant baby. Had a nasty cough for a couple of weeks afterwards. Still I didn’t die, so hooray for vaccines.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        And for everyone like this there are 9 more that were perfectly fine / no more than a cold.

        • Kevin C says:

          What a kind comment. Thank you for your sympathy.

          Actually I know plenty of people who have been pretty ill this time round. Others who have had mild symptoms. It certainly isn’t a 90/10 split. But I don’t know anyone who has been admitted to hospital.

    • Rui N. says:

      I don’t know why would anyone think that a disease that has killed millions upon millions of people and that, at one point, had mortality rates 20x that of the flu (now it’s slightly below the the mortality rate of the flu in the UK) would be anything like a cold. Does anyone know someone that has died from a cold? I don’t!

      • J says:

        The Omicron variant has killed millions of people??

        • Rui N. says:

          Where do you see “omicron” mentioned in my post?

          • Ben says:

            Bringing up millions of deaths when the variants responsible are no long circulating is a tad disingenuous.

            It would be like holding up spanish flu deaths as a way to justify anti flu measures. Needless hyperbole.

          • Rui N. says:

            The discussion was about covid in general, not about any specific variants. Maybe read first the conversation before participating? It’s useful.

          • Ben says:

            Except all that matters is the situation now. Doesn’t matter what the mortality rate was in March 2020, what matters is the mortality rate right now, post vaccination, and with omicron. Which as you alluded to is now below influenza.

            So saying millions died as an excuse to keep restrictions doesn’t reflect that the situation has changed significantly. That’s very disingenuous of you.

          • Rui N. says:

            Where did I mention that I supported any restrictions?! My take on the conversation was about the (silly) comparison with the common cold, nothing more. It’s really difficult to talk to someone that makes stuff up about the conversation they are in.

          • Rui N. says:

            Also, about rates, as someone mentions below “A small % of a very large number = a very large number”. (The US is a good example, last month Omicron was killing 80% of the worst period during January 2021, even being a milder disease and vaccination existing at scale)

          • Rui N. says:

            About the “mildness” of Omicron, you should also see what’s happening in Hong Kong. Current death rate for the infected is 4%. Omicron in the UK is only mild because of vaccines and prior infections.

      • George D says:

        But covid now is mostly very mild so we have to learn to live with it.

      • JerrySignfield says:

        Please supply source for this statement!

    • George D says:

      Covid is gonna be around forever. We can’t keep wearing masks…

  • Peter says:

    I’m cancelling all my upcoming BA flights as a result. 170K+ cases in the UK yesterday and now this country is behaving like Trump’s America, covid is over, masks are face nappies… We know the drill. Those who rejoice might get less keen once they get a random Antigen or PCR on arrival at certain destinations and end up in a hotel or worse, government run facility because they test positive. As anyone know, the UK goes at it alone, once more. No other country or airline apart from SAS (well, we know Sweden’s pandemic mismanagement results during this pandemic they’ve even admitted themselves it was not the best) has done this so far. There might be a reason why? Or is the UK just more intelligent than all the other nations on Earth?

    • Steve says:

      It is not serious anymore. Can people really not see it? Why is everyone so hung up on cases? Let’s be honest, given the state of the NHS, if it was being overrun it would be everywhere. But it is not. Fewer than ever in ICU and if you look at NHS Covid admissions, the cases are incidental, not the cause of admission.

      I fully respect your right to cancel and not travel. But you have to understand that many more are happy with this and it will not impact their decisions.

      • Spurs drive me mad says:

        Peter let us know what flights you are cancelling and dates give someone not afraid of life a chance to nab them if they go back into inventory. As for “trumps america” Biden and Harries are doing a sterling job …. Said no one ever to quote the young ones.

        • Mike says:

          I can’t wait for the return of the Donald – I certainly think the US Ukraine response would have been far greater / more effective.

      • Lady London says:

        TBH the country can’t stay closed. The vulnerable are unfortunately going to have to keep isolating and accepting anything offered to protect them, masking FFP2 or 3, etc.

        But after 2 years and the proven effectiveness of vaccines for the majority, the great majority who are currently not vulnerable need their freedoms back and so does the economy. If it changes then perhaps we have worse again later but for now let’s make use of the freedom all of us who can.

        FWIW I will be switching to FFP2 mask and remaining cautious for at least 2 more months possibly more but happy to see others taking their freedom and getting things going again.

        • Spurs drive me mad says:

          LL … I’m considered “vulnerable” well my body is anyone who has actually met me would just laugh at that description of me. there’s no way I’m sitting at home isolating and being scared of a virus. I got vaccinated if I get it I get it. I’ve never worn a mask and I’m not starting now.
          If people want to wear masks and want to be scared of everything then that’s their choice leave me to my choice.

          • CarpalTravel says:

            I am considered vulnerable too, got lots of letter from the NHS to prove it! (Why not just email me…??). I have much the same attitude, I already feel like I have already lost 2yrs of my life which is a long time, I am not living in fear of it.

            I guess the only difference is I wear my mask where I consider it worth doing so, e.g. if others all around are then I will too. If not then I generally don’t, what would be the point? If I feel slightly unwell I test to make sure I’m not spreading. Just feels like a sensible, pragmatic approach to me, but each their own. I don’t expect anyone else to do what I choose to do. The only behaviour that has really bothered me through this is the number of coughing, spluttering, clearly unwell people who would insist in standing 3mm behind me in a queue, or people jamming into a packed chemist, rather than just queuing up outside until it is their turn. That really does annoy!

          • Lady London says:

            Exactly.

          • Lady London says:

            Vulnerable? I’m frightened of you..

      • jjoohhnn says:

        Hospital cases are higher than the previous Omicron peak in Scotland currently.

        • Tim says:

          Seems their almost 100% complaint mask-wearing has worked wonders then!! 😀

    • John says:

      SAS is also a Norwegian and Danish airline, and those countries have also removed all restrictions.

    • Ben says:

      170k was for friday, saturday and sunday you realise, not just one day.

      • JerrySignfield says:

        That won’t stop his rubbish postings

        • Peter says:

          Very classy. You can stay polite & courteous by avoiding branding someone’s opinion “rubbish”, that’s free you know although that requires some education. And yes I fully know weekends stats are now not published on a daily basis anymore. That still represents more than 50K cases a day on average, and this is still high.

          • Spurs drive me mad says:

            But you didn’t really stay polite did you Peter your post was very passive/aggressive. Your disdain for people who disagree/ challenge you is very clear. You practically spit out the words “ trumps America” as if he and his supporters are lesser beings. You are not polite or courteous just another person with a very limited viewpoint.

    • JerrySignfield says:

      Some people really don’t want to change their view regardless of the facts, doesn’t matter what anyone says people like Peter will ignore the facts to suit their agenda.

    • Mikeact says:

      And another one to add to my Iist…

    • Reno says:

      Well said Peter.
      Let the “it’s a cold” deniers speak rubbish, let them even make it a socially difficult moment for those of us with a medical or research background who will keep wearing masks because we know that relaxing things now is bonkers.

      Science is on our side and nobody’s ever won a bet against it. They’ll be sorely disappointed when they or their kids end up with untreatable lifelong conditions, then they’ll blame the government for not telling them what they didn’t want to hear.

  • James says:

    I’ve got a flight to USA in a couple of weeks with Virgin.

    Does this mean I need to wear a mask going but on way back I don’t? Is that correct? Thanks

    • Rob says:

      Correct.

    • Lee G says:

      I’m in the same boat James (fly back 29th March), and just checked the new policy on the virgin atlantic site. This is what it says:

      ‘For all services operating to or from the United States, where the federal mask mandate on aircraft has been extended until 18 April, customers aged 2 and above must still maintain masks at all times, unless exempt.’

      https://help.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/news/travel-alerts/update-to-our-onboard-face-mask-policy.html

    • Andrew J says:

      According to Virgin Instagram story a few minutes ago “masks will still be required on many of our routes including flights operated to or from the USA until 18 April at the earliest”

    • coasterlover says:

      no i think HfP got it wrong

    • Kip says:

      If you’re up the front its not enforced on VS. Flew TATL with them last week and the pilot makes the required announcement but as soon as the drinks come around it’s off for the rest of the flight if that’s your choice. Some chose to wear, most didn’t.

  • 2ilent8cho says:

    Yes, I’m now going to start flying again now. Though I might leave it until next year as I need the destination end to drop the bonkers restrictions.

    Strange how quickly people forget the World Health Organisation , Whitty and other medical authorities were telling people NOT to wear Masks in March 2020, and we did not have to wear them for months later and infection rate even came down. When corrected for per 100,000 of the population Scotland and Wales had worse infection rates with mandatory face masks than England without.
    Over Christmas despite having everyone in masks again indoors infection rates were 1 million a week. So at best they do nothing, and at worst they make things worse, yet some crazy people still seem to think we should be wearing cloths on our face?

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      Strange how picking random data to suit your story works.
      The research on how Covid spreads was late – which is why mask mandate was delayed.
      Infection rates came down due to lockdowns. And went up when opened.
      Scotland and wales weren’t imposing border controls and were so integrated with England it doesn’t make a difference.

    • Rui N. says:

      Yes, what was known in March 2020 is really relevant for the discussion. All the research was done by then, as we all know.

    • Edwin says:

      People were told not to wear masks back in early 2020 simply because there were not enough masks in the market. If wearing a mask is not helpful at all, why did NHS staff wear it and even complain about the shortage of masks in the first wave? A classic governmental brainwash.

      • Rui N. says:

        That was part of it, but it wasn’t the entire story. It was actually believed that unless you were in very close quarters with infected people (like NHS people do), the risk of getting Covid was not very high, as it was thought that surfaces (and not airborne droplets) were the greatest risks. We now know it’s the other way around (and the WHO was very very late in acknowledging that, despite lots of peer-reviewed evidence).

  • Matarredondaaa says:

    I do not understand why so many on here and in the UK are anti mask wearing
    This is complete madness as cases numbers rise again
    Wrong to even suggest it is mild in the last month I have had a friend due and another currently very unwell
    Those irresponsible anti vaccination are still hugely at risk and are happy to make the rest of us more than we need be
    Everything learned in the last 2 years has been quickly unlearned.
    Mark my words within the next month’s we will be back to an emergency situation.
    Frankly of this Government and society in general I despair.

    • J says:

      Hugely at risk? Someone isn’t reading the government data…

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      Difference this time is vaccines and boosters.

    • Sarah says:

      Cases are up 444k more from last week. Check Sky news this morning and you will see it’s happening already. I am wearing my N95 thank you!

      • Spurs drive me mad says:

        Oh yes because Sky news are so truthful.

      • Andy S says:

        The important stats are Hospital admissions and deaths.

        Cases numbers are not relevant now, as its a very mild flu for the majority of the population.

    • Ben says:

      Your friends situation, while unfortunate is just an anecdote.

      By the same token, my experience was I got vaccinated and boosted, caught omicron at christmas along with the rest of my family and in my case I had a sore throat and a day and that was it. My partner had zero symptoms and my brother and his partner had colds.

      So that’s 4 mild anecdotes to your one bad one.

      So what if anti vaxxers are at higher risk, they have opted to put themselves at that risk and can undo it at any time they choose.

      • J says:

        Given the current UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance Report show hospital admission rates for triple jabbed vs unvaccinated are pretty much equivalent for 18-50 year olds (and yes, the numbers are adjusted for population size). I’m confident being unvaccinated doesn’t put me at any significant higher risk right now.

        • Rui N. says:

          A rate adjusted for population size! Amazing! We can clearly see you know what you’re talking about. 🤣🤣🤣

      • TGLoyalty says:

        I can add 7 more I know of RIGHT now and another 4 in the past month.

        All no more than a cold and none seriously ill. Backed up by the general hospital and ICU admissions FOR covid.

  • Matt says:

    “Cabin crew will continue to wear masks” – where did you read this Rob? The memo from the COO said the requirement will be dropped for both crew and passengers…

    • Rob says:

      BA staffer yesterday. Happy to correct if wrong.

      • Matt says:

        Fair enough! Hoping they’ve misinterpreted, as it seemed fairly clearly worded to me. We’re expecting more detail to be sent out today.

      • Paul says:

        Staff under no more rules than customers. “Crew and customers travelling on our flights will only be required to wear a mask on board if the destination they are flying to requires them to”

  • Luke says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t know where his mask is, because it is so long since I have last worn it?

    • Spurs drive me mad says:

      Luke I’ve never worn one. I know I am satan in the disguise of a middle aged woman. 🙄

    • Andi says:

      Mask singular? Hopefully in the laundry basket otherwise… ew!

  • stupoo says:

    DFW bound on Sunday. First time international since this kicked off.

    Those at polar ends of this argument are both in the fringe. Cases are rising and if left completely unchecked .. they will eventually do damage. (A small % of a very large number = a very large number). Those suggesting we wear masks however until it is “completely” safe live in a fantasy that never is or was going to happen – 0% chance – we live in a risk managed world.

    We’re at the inflection point with Covid.. but we’re not well into the clear yet.

    Wearing a mask, at this point in time, where it makes sense and is no impediment to your travel … isn’t a lot to ask. As a healthy adult male I don’t fear Covid … but I don’t want to come home with Covid and result in my family needing to isolate.

    • Scott says:

      Too sensible – mods, please remove the above comment as it doesn’t belong here.

      Scanning through these comments makes grim reading. When did this site become like this (and I don’t mean this as a reflection of the editorial content)? It used to be an easy-going place where I could find out about point-earning opportunities.

      The comments now are often as bad as those in the worst corners of the web. I actually wonder if people make a conscious decision each day to abuse strangers online, or if their lives are just so – I don’t know the right word, hateful? – that this spills over into their online interactions.

      • Spurs drive me mad says:

        Blimey Scott where have you been the last few years, this site has always had polarising views, before covid it was brexit and I expect the next thing will be the Ukraine war when we turn from being experts in viruses to experts in warfare.
        Online is no different from real world nice and vile people in both. If it upsets you don’t read it just like I avoid people I can’t stand in the real world.

        • Niall says:

          We never learn if we avoid those we disagree with.

          I do think the way opinions are expressed in this site and perhaps everywhere has changed over the years. People who post generally seem unreceptive to hear others opinions. Entering these discussions seems to make people feel more firmly about what their initial opinion was, regardless of what they read.

          I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I have seen someone say anything like ‘Fair enough!’, ‘I didn’t know that’, ‘you have convinced me’ or ‘what you said makes sense, I’m going to read up / reflect on this’.

          I feel like an old man saying it but people have become more firm in polarising opinions and less able or willing to discuss things or be receptive enough to ever be convinced.

          • Spurs drive me mad says:

            Niall, might not learn but it’s better for my blood pressure not to surround myself with people I detest why would you do that?
            I’ve got friends from all walks of life all sorts of views have they ever changed my mind on anything serious not that I recall. Have I ever changed their minds … possibly.

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