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Facemaskgate: BA isn’t sure which countries require one, so until they work it out ….

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The British Airways face mask saga continues, and if anything it gets weirder.

On Monday, British Airways announced that face masks would not be required from Wednesday except where required by law.

Just before the policy was about to go live, British Airways withdrew their guidance. Crew were told to ensure that mask wearing continued and all references to the new policy were withdrawn from – although they remained prominent on social media.

British Airways face mask policy

During Thursday, British Airways published a new policy on

“The legal requirement to wear a face covering has now been removed in England and Wales and we have updated our face mask policy.

Customers are no longer required to wear a mask at some airports in England.

However, as an international airline flying all around the world, we are obliged to ensure our customers continue to comply with local restrictions and meet the requirements of the destination they arrive at.

Therefore, we ask you to check the requirements of the destination you’re flying to before departing for the airport, as:

  • 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
  • If you are travelling on our flights, you will be required to wear a mask to disembark the aircraft, and at your arrival airport, if the destination you are flying to requires it

Where we are unsure or have not been able to clarify the local restrictions, we will still require you to wear face coverings, and we ask that you continue to carry masks with you for the duration of your journey.

For destinations where we have established that the wearing of a face covering is not mandated, you are able to make a personal choice and we kindly request everyone respects each other’s preferences.”

It sounds odd, but it seems that British Airways is unable to find out which countries require a face mask and which don’t. Where there is no certainty, a mask will still be required.

This makes some sense, of course. Regulation is a difficult and complex area.

What doesn’t make sense ….

What doesn’t make sense is that we have reports of, for example, passengers being told to wear masks on Heathrow to Manchester domestic services and others being told that the mask requirement will not be decided until after boarding.

It also isn’t clear why BA isn’t willing to publish a list of destinations where it is requiring masks.

Meanwhile, a BA CityFlyer employee working out of London City Airport posted on Flyertalk on Thursday afternoon that:

“Latest crew guidance is that masks are not required for domestic flights within England and Northern Ireland, and to/from Ireland. Still required for other destinations, in both directions.

I get a feeling that this saga will continue until at least 18th April, which is the date at which the US is expected to remove the mask requirement for airline passengers.


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Comments (63)

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

  • Wallaj4 says:

    Flew to Nice Wednesday , back this morning . Face masks required on boarding the aircraft

  • John T says:

    What an absolute mess.

  • GS says:

    I flew back from the States (Phoenix) to Heathrow on Wednesday night/Thursday morning and face masks were required.

    • jjoohhnn says:

      This is US law currently.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        US law has no jurisdiction especially once it’s out of US airspace (even when it comes to offences in airspace not wearing a face mask mandates isnt serious enough for them to fall under the Montreal Protocol)

        On the ground it’s the law of the country you are in that matters.

        In flight it’s the law of the country where the aircraft is registered OR destination country to take jurisdiction in the event of incidents affecting air safety (including hijack or causing injury to another passenger). So, for example, you would not be charged upon landing in a foreign country for under-age drinking on board, but you would for a serious offence.

        Feel like BA are making this far too complicated

        • Joe says:

          But BA aren’t going to risk upsetting the US, even if that is correct.

  • cjguk says:

    Just landed at Heathrow on BA499 from Lisbon, everyone had masks on but not a single announcement was made

  • Andrew says:

    The messaging could be as straightforward as: “As a courtesy to other passengers, please continue to wear a mask, whether or not it is a legal requirement.”

    It is extraordinary that such a simple step, like wearing a seatbelt or not smoking, has become such an issue of contention.

    It is not ideal, but neither is catching a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease.

    • Joe says:

      So highly infectious that you are almost guaranteed to get it this year. So utterly pointless to try and act like King Canute. Its nothing like a seatbelt.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It’s absolutely nothing like a seatbelt or not smoking.

    • ChrisC says:

      Some people don’t know the meaning of the word ‘courtesy’ and will spout about their rights but ignore their responsibilities.

      • Joe says:

        I wore a mask without complaints and by choice before vaccination, I wore it without complaining too much after vaccination, and before omicron.

        When omicron came, it became apparent that it was just something to get through. Now I’ve had it, and am at no risk of catching it or spreading it. It is not irresponsible to not wear a mask. Wearing one frankly shows you have poor capability of assessing risk. That said, be my guest.

    • StanTheMan says:

      As a courtesy can we also then ban anyone who smells, eats noisily, snores, talks too loudly, wears open toed sandals or says “haitch” instead of “aitch”.
      I’m sure there are many others that people would like stopped out of “courtesy” to others.

      • Joe says:

        The one thing that is highly discourteous is trying to force people around you to see the world in your (clearly wrong) viewpoint.

    • J says:

      May just be a simple step for you, but for many, wearing a mask (or seeing others wear a mask) it is a barrier to flying, shopping, and, for a few, even stepping outside their house. Try to have a little empathy – not everyone is the same.

  • Ross Parker says:

    My lay understanding of aviation law & the Tokyo convention is that once the aircraft has begun to move towards its destination, under its own power (i.e. after pushback, as it begins to taxi) then it is under the jurisdiction of the country in which the aircraft is registered. In cases where you are flying to a jurisdiction with a mask mandate, the airline may choose to mandate mask-wearing just so the passengers are not refused. But what is BA’s rationale for enforcing mask-wearing on flights *to* LHR in UK-registered planes (as they are doing)?

  • Nick says:

    So what appears to have happened is that as BA is run on a shoestring, they realised they just don’t have the resource to keep track of rules on a route-by-route basis (which admittedly do change frequently), plus ensure that the right message is applied with each gate boarding team or crew. So with the high risk of being fined or otherwise penalised in some destinations if they get it wrong, they’ve gone back to mandates everywhere instead. Unless someone is confident enough of the rules to overrule it on a case-by-case basis. So yes, an ‘entirely avoidable shambles’ is the best way of putting it.

    The problem BA has compared to cheapo airlines (such as tui/jet2) is that the latter are almost entirely Brits-abroad types, whereas BA carries more government and well-connected people… who are far more likely to report or follow up on incorrect activity. As they’re completely risk-averse, this has a bearing on the front line decisions they make.

    • CatchFlightsNotFeelings says:

      If they can keep track of all the testing requirements then they keep track of the mask requirements. It’s not that hard.

  • BrianN says:

    Any news or whisperings at all of when usa may remove the covid test entry requirement? Thanks

    • Ben says:

      The mask mandate for airports and flights in the USA is due to expire on the 18th April. So perhaps then?

      Seems likely given their northern neighbour Canada is dropping the test requirement 1st April.

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