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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.

  • WendyJ says:

    It’s a good thought, but the reverse is actually true. People didn’t want to wear them because they believed they were fine so wouldn’t be passing it on. If people had been told from the beginning that it would protect themselves then their self preservation would have kicked in and there would have been far more willingness to wear and less protesting about it.

    • Novice says:

      I agree @wendy j.

      I personally have been wearing them to protect myself, never thought of anyone else’s benefit because it’s one’s own responsibility to think for one’s own health.

      Not my problem. I just think it’s common sense to wear it now that the world doesn’t think you are weird if you do. I’m OCD so maybe it’s that but I’m happy not having strangers breathing on me.

    • Mike says:

      If you are worried about YOUR health then it’s better that YOU wear a good mask (at least a n95/ffp2 but preferably a n99/ffp3) than making everyone else wear a crappy mask. It disappoints me how many people lecturing others wear a nearly complete useless face mask.

      • Novice says:

        I’ve only ever worn n95 and above. I don’t believe other masks are good enough.

        • Mike says:

          Same for me, I’ve been using a N95 or better since day one. The only exception was when I had 11 hours of train journeys on nearly empty trains in the summer heat one day. I wore a silver impregnated cloth mask, easier in the heat as it was doing practically nothing, as all cloth masks do, but kept the train staff off my back. 2 years into this and I’ve not had COVID.

  • BobT says:

    All in favour of continuing the mask requirement and yes I do think people who want to live deserve more respect than those who are happy to kill or be killed.

    Meanwhile any news as to why the U-turn really happened?

    • Ben says:

      Tad melodramatic to act like some healthy boosted individual not wearing a mask wants to be killed.

      Especially when the risk of that is now below that of influenza according to the ONS.

      • Novice says:

        A lot of people who want masks to remain might just be happy not having strangers breathe on their food, face etc.

        And, having a health problem can be worse than death in a lot of cases.

        Death has gone way down but has the negative effects of having covid gone down, if that mks sense.

        Flu doesn’t affect your lungs as far as I know. I may be wrong.

        • Ben says:

          Given the vaccines reduce severity of the virus, I would argue the negative effects have decreased significantly.

          Flu doesn’t effect lungs? Secondary viral pneumonia is a well known complication of influenza, especially in older individuals.

          Would it surprise you that viral myocarditis is also a possible complication of flu ? Or did you think covid had a monopoly on side effects and complications?

    • To dare is to do says:

      Blimey Bob put down the crack pipe the paranoia is doing you no favours.

  • Anna says:

    So what’s happening in the lounges? Are they classed as LHR, or are the rules the same as on board the operating airline?

    • Guy Incognito says:

      @anna all you need to do is say the magic words “I am exempt”.

      Don’t be shy about it. And then smile at people, especially those who mutter under their breath. It disarms them.

      I’ve never worn I mask. I am exempt. And I’m happy to tell that to anyone who asks me 🙂

      • Anna says:

        Ah, but I’m happy to abide by the rules, especially as I intend to be attached to a glass of LPGS for my entire visit. Because champagne is a Covid-proof barrier, of course 😂

      • signol says:

        I’m also technically exempt. However since the beginning of the pandemic, and still, I’m continuing to wear one when inside a public space. Because, you know, thinking of both mine and others’ health.

  • supergraeme says:

    They’ve responded to Simon Calder on Twitter in the last few minutes with their policy, which they say is “clear” – and it says that masks are determined by the destination. Therefore my flight to Bologna tomorrow – mask. The return on Sunday – no mask.

    • Ross Parker says:

      I’ve just flown from Spain to UK… they made us wear masks.

      • Nick says:

        Their site is back to referring to masks now being optional depending on destination. It sounds like there’s been a breakdown in communication over the past 48 hours within BA & your experience today would suggest the same

        • Paul says:

          I am shocked at that idea. BA shoddy communications? But then shoddy operations and shoddy administration.

  • Nick says:

    It would appear that yesterday they republished an older version of the site (for whatever reason, I do not know), but the site today now refers to masks being optional unless the destination requires it. Link (or google British Airways mask if you’re uncomfortable clicking on links):

    Think this has all been a major communication breakdown, where they wanted to re-write the new version, so they quickly republished an old version of the site, hoping it would go unnoticed. Their social media channels (both twitter and facebook) didn’t acknowledge any potential reversal of the policy – quite the opposite, they denied it.

    • PhilS says:

      Listed followed the link and it says – If you are travelling on our flights, you will be required to wear a mask on board if the destination you are flying to or from requires you to.

      So does this indicate that masks to be worn if you are flying to or FROM a destination that requires you to wear mask?

      Clear as mud.

      • NorthernLass says:

        I can’t see how the US could possibly enforce mask wearing on departing flights. Have they got mask air marshalls or something?

        • Rob says:

          My guess is that the US doesn’t want its citizens who are leaving the US by plane to catch covid in case they still have it on their return, hence the rule.

          • NorthernLass says:

            If they still have it on their return, surely it will be picked up by their pre-departure tests?

          • Bonglim says:

            @Northern Lass
            I think the departure tests will miss quite a few. I.e. if you catch the virus on the way out, you could easily test negative 3 days later when you have the test. Could have tested positive on day 4, but no test and flying on day 4 or 5 when you might be most infectious.

            Also all the tests are <100% accurate, particularly if they are self administered by someone keen to get home.

            The bottom line is the masks are back because covid is increasing a huge amount in the community.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            Masks aren’t “back” they are just saying if we can’t verify the legal stance then default is masks.

            At the the end of the day any flight to England doesn’t require a mask by law and is therefore optional.

      • supergraeme says:

        You don’t fly FROM a destination though, you fly TO it – so anyone heading back to the UK doesn’t need to wear a mask.

        • PhilS says:

          Cut and paste from BA using link provided by Nick. Other countries, not just US, have mask mandates in relation to travel.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            It might be a cut and paste but it doesn’t mean the country can enforce its law when you’re flying TO another destination.

    • Sikal says:

      Flew in from Germany last night and we were told we had to wear a mask for the whole flight(apart from when eating or drinking) there was no optional about it.

  • Dilipkumar J Vyas says:

    We flew with BA recently as crew were very good and understand the issues.
    Although communication is a big issue with BA at the moment and overall not a very good service ref, priority boarding and rest of it we want be rushing to book more with BA,#

  • Matarredondaaa says:

    Common sense prevails.

  • Swifty says:

    Remember that time Boris Johnson hid in a walk in fridge to avoid Good Morning Britain ? BA want a massive fridge to hide in. Poor BA. We love to hate them. It could be worse, they could be air Canada, strap line, “We’re not happy till you’re UNHAPPY”

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