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British Airways REINSTATES face masks – and won’t say why

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Plot twist. According to reports, British Airways has had a last-minute change of heart and not removed the requirement to wear face masks.

The plan was to remove the requirement to wear masks, except for destinations where it is required by law, from today.

Heathrow Airport and Virgin Atlantic were also removing mask mandates from today.

British Airways backtracks on removal of face masks

It isn’t clear what is happening. Flyertalk posts from crew claim there are ‘compliance issues’ with removing the requirement for masks but the airline is not disclosing what these are.

All references to the removal of masks have disappeared from the BA website. The covid guidance pages still say that a mask is compulsory on all flights:

“Although UK rules are easing, here at British Airways like other airlines and airports, wearing face masks is still our policy. We’ll need you to wear a face mask in the airport and on board unless you are exempt. We have this policy to protect our most vulnerable customers and abide by the laws of countries around the world.

As a guide, a face mask could last up to four hours, so please make sure you bring enough for the duration of your trip. You will be asked to remove your mask for any passport checks, but you’ll be advised when to do so by our colleagues.

When you’re on board, you’re allowed to remove your face mask for a reasonable time to enable you to eat or drink. When you’re not consuming food or drink, your face mask must be placed back on and must cover your nose and mouth at all times.

British Airways reinstating face masks

What is going on?

It’s not clear.

BA is claiming on Twitter that nothing has changed despite what passengers are being told, despite what BA staff are saying in our own comments section below and despite the website changes:

The move to retain face coverings on public transport in Scotland for a further period – these were meant to have been scrapped next week – has obviously caused issues for passengers on flights to Scotland.

It is possible that it is linked to passengers connecting in London. Do passengers flying to some countries have to wear a mask for their entire trip? Perhaps the whole aircraft must be masked if one person is connecting? There are reports of passengers being told that a decision on masks can only be taken after boarding. If this is true, however, why has SAS not been impacted after dropping masks?

Whatever the issue is, it has not impacted Jet2, Tui or Virgin Atlantic which have already removed the requirement to wear face masks.

More if we get it. For now, you better keep that mask to hand, even though you won’t need it at Heathrow or Gatwick in the airport.


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Comments (237)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • DavidB says:

    Could be the explosion of new cases sweeping Europe? If you’re in a “spacious” F or J pod there’s more distance among passengers but in the back cabins you’re up next to too many people. Either require preflight testing AND proof of 3-shot vaccination or keep the masks. I plan to keep wearing one when flying in those economy cabins (and front “cabin” on narrow bodies).

  • Spurs drive me mad says:

    That’s what makes their post so funny.

  • The Hunter says:

    I was on a BA flight from Nice to Heathrow yesterday and masks were definitely not required. None of the crew wore one, and the majority of passengers didn’t either.

    • Andrew J says:

      Great. Let’s hope that’s the working practice of this policy and we can travel in comfort without needing to wear a mask.

  • StanTheMan says:

    Silly question – If masks are effective, cant people who want to wear one, just wear one and protect themselves ??? Regardless of what others choose to do.

    If a person chooses not to wear one, then surely they can only infect another person who also chooses not to wear one. While someone who chooses to wear a mask is still safely protected.

    Make your own choice, knowing the consequences…….

    • Ben says:

      They need to be n95 or kn95 masks to be effective at protecting you. The surgical and cloth masks only stop you from spreading it.

      • Novice says:

        Well, anyone with half a brain has always been using N95.

      • GM says:

        And obviously cumulative effect – everyone wearing means less virus in the air so everyone gets more protection from whatever mask. I’ll be in FFP2/3 (N95 or N99) but it will have to do a lot of heavy lifting vs getting to wear a KN95 and be much safer in general with universal masking. And I don’t get people comparing it to shops? It’s an enclosed space, packed tight, for hours. Plus just because the English government wants to pretend it’s all over and that everyone should work work work and spend spend spend doesn’t mean that it’s not still a risk and that companies can’t aim to keep passengers and employees safe.

        • StanTheMan says:

          OK, but if personal choice means anything, wearing a N95 or N99 seems to be a fair compromise for those that want to, while others choose not to?

          As an aside, i dont think a government wanting people to work and spend is mutually exclusive to keeping people safe….

        • shd says:

          > keep passengers and employees safe

          Covid is now less dangerous than seasonal flu, according to analysis published in last week’s FT. Grown-ups shouldn’t need companies (or any governments!) to “keep them safe” from it. Paranoid types are of course entitled to wear three masks at once – or indeed simply stay at home – but *please* just leave the rest of us alone. We played along with the nonsense for long enough as it is…

        • Guy Incognito says:

          You do you.

          I’ll be travelling the same way I always have done. No mask. No sanitiser.

          I’ve not had Covid despite working every day, travelling extensively etc.

          The utter paranoia which is totally out of proportion to the actual risk is astonishing. Unless you’re a very specific demographic you’re at more risk getting to the airport (or going down the stairs in your house).

  • Dylan says:

    I work for one of the British airlines that have officially abandoned masks. On a flight yesterday with 180 pax, a grand total of 5 pax chose to wear them. It seems that most of the British public are quite happy to take their chances with mask freedom…

  • MaríaJ says:

    I got bumped from my seat once again travelling on a 2-4-1. Does anyone know why this happens? I chose the seat when I booked 7 months ago. When I realised the BA staff on the ground told me that my original seat was not available due to the entertainment unit not working, but this was a lie as someone else had that seat. Very annoyingly they put me next to the toilets and kitchen.

    • NorthernLass says:

      It might be more helpful to put this in the forum section, but if you paid for the seat you should at least get a refund. It sounds like they wanted it for a status passenger if there was nothing wrong with the entertainment system – you could document all that and submit a complaint.

    • CatchFlightsNotFeelings says:

      Same happened to us, spent over £100 each on club word seat reservations for our wedding/honeymoon, and they bumped us a few days before flight so a family of 4 could sit together in a row(why couldnt they do 2 and 2?!) and separated us on other sides of the cabin. Bad end to a brilliant two weeks!

      • MaríaJ says:

        I think it has happened to me every time I have used a 2-4-1 either in the outbound or the inbound but the purser was always nice dealing about it ( not today though).
        Very frustrating! Specially when they lie about it. It makes you feel ike the don’t value as a customer.

  • JP-MCO says:

    I have long believed that the whole narrative about wearing a mask to protect others was devised as a way of increasing compliance. If the UK hadn’t mandated mask wearing in shops there would have been a great number of people who would have chosen to not wear one and take their chances with an illness which, according to the CMO, was mild for most people. However, if you make it so that the reason is to protect others then those who don’t wear one automatically become ‘selfish’ – you create a sense of obligation in society which results in better compliance. The Government doesn’t have to do as much policing the public do it for them. The narrative was designed to alter behaviour in the same way that SPI-B used fear to control behaviour and increase compliance with social distancing.

    I’m vaccinated, boosted, have had COVID (and only found out because of a test) and I didn’t have the brass neck to exempt myself when mask wearing was mandated. But as soon as it wasn’t I took my mask off and have never put one on again. People need to be allowed to make their own choices and we need to shed the rhetoric and frankly silly narrative that anybody who doesn’t wear one is selfish. It is nonsense.

    • Charlotte says:

      Maybe there is an element of the government wanting to drive compliance, and it’s easy to be emotion-led when it comes to wearing masks and other restrictions. But don’t forget that there is clear data from numerous studies on the reduction in infections when wearing masks. CMO guidance last autumn was to continue wearing masks in crowded public places. Boris has eased restrictions to appease his waning electorate, and not because he’s following best practice or looking at the data.

      • JP-MCO says:

        I’ve yet to come across a peer reviewed clinical study where the effectiveness of face coverings wasn’t tainted by other NPIs such as distancing. The overall effectiveness of face coverings on their own can never seem to be extrapolated from the data and conclusions are drawn in the wider context of other mitigations. I don’t doubt that physical distancing is very effective but I have my doubts that a face covering prevents transmission in any meaningful way and I’ve seen no data that proves their effectiveness when not taken in the context of other mitigation strategies, no studies that do this exist. It’s interesting that when the decision to mandate masks within the UK was made it was on the basis that ‘we don’t know but we might as well try’.

        The wider point is that we have effective vaccines, we have effective treatments and we have a massive amount of natural and vaccine conferred immunity within the population. Short of a sterilizing vaccine there isn’t going be a better time to remove NPIs so we might as well do it now. I appreciate the Government has spent the past 2 years putting the fear of god in people to make them comply but at some point we need to get on with life and if not now, when? I don’t propose to wear a mask for the rest of my life. I would much rather put my faith in vaccines and treatments than a piece of cloth and that’s not selfish and it should never have been framed that way in the first place. We need to move away from believing that ridiculous narrative.

        • Lady London says:

          So what’s the difference in how much you might spread if you sneeze? With a mask on, as compared to without a mask.

          Is speaking any different?
          Is breathing any different?

          Btw I do agree that now is the time for anyone who is worried or vulnerable to protect themselves and everyone else to have their freedom, but in all of the examplea above, a mask (even a poor one) does reduce your potential impact on others.

          • JP-MCO says:

            With the greatest of respect you make the statement quite definitively that “a mask (even a poor one) does reduce your potential impact on others” but you cite no peer reviewed study that proves this in the absence of other NPIs. It’s almost like you believe it to be proven beyond such a point that providing evidence is simply unnecessary and yet if you look into it more closely – it’s hasn’t. And that’s kind of my point. We’re all working on the assumption that face coverings work because the studies that calculated their effectiveness were all carried out at a time when we were also social distancing. But these studies are used to uphold the dogma (which is what it is) that face coverings are effective in preventing transmission but the reality is that the data is scant at best and completely tainted. In any other scientific analysis it would be completely discredited. But worse still we’ve created a whole narrative around it that says you’re selfish if you don’t wear one!

    • martin says:

      You won’t be visiting any relative in hospital without wearing one..
      Still take them same stance..

  • AL says:

    So, Heathrow has binned its requirement, BA have reinstated it and the HX is still blasting out reminders for them to be worn. MAN was bad the other day – before the legal removal of the restriction, compliance was <20%. But, then, MAN for you…

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