Three major institutions in the British air travel industry announced plans to repeal mask mandates enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The largest airport in the United Kingdom, Heathrow Airport in London, said travelers did not need to wear maks while traveling. This includes in its terminals, railway stations or office buildings.
“While we still recommend wearing them, we can be confident the investments we’ve made in Covid—secure measures—some of which aren’t always visible—combined with the fantastic protection provided by the vaccine will continue to keep people safe while traveling,” said Heathrow Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe to BBC.
Gilthrope warned the mask requirement could be reinstated if a new COVID-19 variant became prevalent.
The new policy went into effect on March 16.
Effective from Wednesday 16 March, we'll remove the requirement for wearing face coverings at the airport. We still strongly encourage both colleagues & passengers to wear them, particularly when they come into close contact with others, but this will no longer be mandatory. 1/2
— Heathrow Airport (@HeathrowAirport) March 14, 2022
The announcement coincided with British Airways’ change to its masking policy.
Travelers using the airline will only be required to wear masks during flights that are destined for a location that requires masks.
“Please continue to respect fellow passengers’ mask preferences in these instances,” the airline said in its announcement shared on Twitter with a video of a flight attendant removing her mask.
From 16 March, our face mask policy is changing.
Where we’re clear the destination you’re travelling to doesn’t require a face mask on board, it will become optional 😷 ✈️
— British Airways (@British_Airways) March 15, 2022
Virgin Atlantic also announced it would no longer require passengers to wear masks. The airline said it would still recommend their use when in close contact with passengers or staff members.
“This policy will be introduced gradually, beginning with our Caribbean services from Heathrow and Manchester airports,” Virgin’s chief customer and operating officer Corneel Koster said in a statement, per CNN.
With the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice whether to wear a mask onboard 🛫
The mask rules that apply will depend on the route you’re flying, because requirements differ by destination.
— virginatlantic (@VirginAtlantic) March 15, 2022
The U.K ended its mask requirement on public transportation at the end of January. Heathrow had maintained its own mask requirement because of the large number of international flights and passengers that move through its facilities.
Masks are still mandatory for passengers on public transportation in Scotland and Wales.
Beginning on March 18, the United Kingdom will end its remaining COVID-19 restrictions. International travelers, regardless of vaccination status, will no longer need to show a COVID-19 test before or after.